Taco Bell Goes Hawaiian

Or as they say it, “Kalua Pork Goes Mexican.” How about “Luau goes Fiesta”?

However you wanna’ word it, Taco Bell Hawaii recently introduced three new promotional items on the menu: Kalua Pork Soft Taco, Kalua Pork Quesadilla and Kalua Pork Grilled Stuft Burrito. Of course “available for a limited time only”.

I’m a sucker for experimental stuff like this, where corporate food chains take popular local delicacies and come up with interesting “fusion” creations in hopes of coming out a hit. So when I seen the TV commercial recently, it immediately put me into “gotta try that” mode.

Remember McDonald’s Haupia and Taro Pie? Must have worked because both items returned to the menu.

For the most part, Taco Bell’s extensive menu is really a lesson in 1001 different ways to assemble and name something else using the same ingredients. lol

Finally now with the introduction of Kalua Pork, we have an opportunity to remove the “mystery” out of the meat that is their conventional all-purpose seasoned ground “beef” (is it really just that?) filling.

And there is some sense of reassurance with this Kalua Pork, as you may notice it states on the poster that it’s supplied by popular local meat packing company, May’s, famous for their teriyaki beef burger patties and other marinated meats. The commercially-sold Kalua Pig brand most common in the local supermarkets is Keoki’s, and I wasn’t even aware May’s had a Kalua Pork product, until now.

To get this fix, I took a stroll down Kalakaua avenue last night and visited the Taco Bell/Pizza Hut located at the basement of the Waikiki Shopping Plaza.

Your typical Taco Bell/Pizza Hut take-out counter…

Not that I can eat all of it in one sitting, still, I decided to get all three at once in order to do a side-by-side comparison.

First up we have the Kalua Pork Soft Taco…

Kalua Pork Soft Taco, $1.89

Good deal. Let’s look what’s inside…

Chunky tomato salsa, shredded lettuce and May’s Kalua Pork. Check. Let’s have a bite…

Ono! So far I’m diggin’ it. The crispy lettuce, cool, slightly acidic chunky Tomato Salsa along with the defined smoky flavor of the Kalua Pork matches quite well. The Kalua Pork was a little too lean, dry and chopped up for my liking, but for fast food, what can you expect. I think that chunky salsa is supposed to resemble Lomi Lomi Salmon, which it does in texture, but certainly not in flavor without the salted salmon. Overall as a package, this works.

Next up we have the Kalua Pork Quesadilla…

Taco Bell Hawaii Kalua Pork Quesadilla, $2.99

Again a good deal. Let’s look what we have in here…

Here the simplicity of just hot, melted cheddar and jack? cheeses melting over and through the smoky Kalua Pork really packs a flavor punch. That, along with the soft, toasted crust of the tortilla makes this one mighty tasty Quesadilla.

While Taco Bell’s OEM tangy and spicy Taco sauce helps introduce an extra dimension of moisture and kick, I really think if they offered something sweet like, say Mango Salsa, it would really compliment the pork. That, along with a generous dollop of sour cream on top would be perfect.

Same for the Taco. That chunky tomato salsa is good, but Mango Salsa, or any fruit-based salsa would be great in that. Pork and fruit go hand-in-hand.

Finally we have the largest of the three, the Kalua Pork Grilled Stuft Burrito…

Taco Bell Hawaii Kalua Pork Grilled Stuft Burrito, $3.79

This thing is huge. I’d say easily a half-pounder. Here you see the “grilled” tortilla wrapper…

Let’s have a bite…

Notice the ratio of “stuft” Spanish rice to Kalua Pig, in which the flavor of the starchy, slightly spicy rice comprises the bulk of it, while the Kalua Pork is more of a subtle add-on. I think this one needs a little recipe tweaking. Perhaps if they simply made this the wrapped up version of the Kalua Pork Soft Taco, with just a little of the rice and the addition of sour cream, that might work better.

Whew, I’m “stuft”, yet glad I got that off my chest. Next time you’re in town and run into a Taco Bell, give one of these a try. I recommend the Kalua Pork Soft Taco and Kalua Pork Quesadilla. Very good. With either one, ask them to add sour cream. It would be worth the extra 25 cents, and that would really kick ’em up a notch. Bam! lol

All that’s missing in this equation is POI!

The reason I repeatedly insist on Mango Salsa and sour cream is because of this most excellent example of Kalua Pork Quesadillas I had recently at a local pub…

Kalua Pig Quesadillas with Sour Cream and Mango Salsa, $4

These were da’ bomb! Notice the cross-hatch grill markings, which not only look good, but offers a more balanced toasted flavor vs. the broader flat top method like its done at Taco Bell. That, along with the very moist and tender Kalua Pig, most fantastic sweet and spicy Mango salsa and creamy coolness of the sour cream is such a winner here. Taco Bell should look into implementing one of these grid/grate type of griddles.

And of course this isn’t anything new, as apparently Hawaii celebrity chef Russell Siu and Roy Yamaguchi already have fancier gourmet offerings of the dish.

Speaking of Kalua Pig, check out our neighbor’s pet pig named -yes – Kalua! I kid you not. That’s sick, yet cute at the same time. lol

Here’s Kalua at about 9 months old…

And here’s Kalua currently at about 1-1/2 years old…

Whoah! Yes, that’s the same pig. I don’t know if that dove in front really shows in scale just how HUGE he is now, but we estimate he currently weighs easily over 200 pounds. Yet he’s a gentle giant. The boy loves sweets. Especially fruits like bananas and especially chocolate. Goes nuts for chocolate, belting out loud squeals of jubilation whenever he even just smells the stuff. Like most pigs, he’s also very intelligent. His name may be Kalua, but he’s certainly not destined for the Imu!

Lastly, while we’re on Taco Bell, check out this hilarious logo spin-off I Illustrated a while ago…

Here you can order the “Tako Supreme”, which comes with extra Ogo.



15 thoughts on “Taco Bell Goes Hawaiian

  1. This is one of the things I miss about living in Hawaii, the regional variations to corporate food. When we visited family on Oahu in December my husband and son got hooked on the banana pies from Mickey-D’s. They were also excited to be able to order portuguese sausage and rice for breakfast (something I took for granted while growing up there). If you have to eat fast food, it might as well be ono, huh?

  2. Gang, you might have read an incomplete story, as much to my absolute FRUSTRATION, the WordPress editor ERASED almost my entire post, making me have to re-write it completely. I’m so upset.

    I finally re-wrote it to completion as you’ll now see as you scroll down into it.

    Norio, usually our “leftover” kalua pig turns into Kalua Pig and Cabbage over rice, but next time I’ll have to keep them Tortillas handy!

    j-yo, I believe McDonald’s Hawaii is currently offering a Mango Pie. I’ll get back to you on that.

    backopi5, I assume you’re away for school? Anyway, this is something you could indeed make on the mainland using the oven-baked Kalua Pig method. Of course it would be nice if it were as convenient as fast food.

  3. that looks ono! changing the subject, there are three little wild piglets in our valley, I get to see them some mornings…only in Hawaii 🙂

  4. Oooh, I tried both the kalua pig soft taco & the quesadilla and I liked both of them, but now I’m waiting for kalua pig nachos!

    And I was wondering if you could name the place where you get the kalua pig quesadilla wiith the mango salsa & sour cream. That looked really ono!

  5. I’m a huge fan of carnitas tacos, so of course I had to try Taco Bell’s kalua pig soft taco. Not bad, actually, it was pretty good! I agree with Molly that kalua pig nachos should come next…

  6. Pingback: gourmet chocolate » Blog Archive » Taco Bell Goes Hawaiian

  7. No fair, you have ice cream cones at your Taco Bell! I wonder if that’s also a Hawaii thing or if I’m just getting screwed on some potentially delicious twisty cones.

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