This recipe requires a little advanced preparation, but it could not be easier to make. We like to season the pork the night before and then let it sit in the fridge overnight so the meat is flavored to its core. Instead of using brown sugar, which is more common in preparations like this, we mash extra-soft dates into a smooth paste and then rub it all over the meat. It adds a rich, natural sweetness that is so good with the pineapple, soy sauce and hoisin. If you don’t have time to let your meat sit overnight, then season it up and head straight to the slow cooker. This meal is a great for a hands off dinner party or appetizer, especially in summer when you don’t want to heat up the kitchen using your stove!
Pro Tip: Don’t toss those extra juices! They are great for keeping any leftovers extra-moist in the fridge, or strained and served alongside the sliders for a French Dip-inspired dunk.
- 5 pounds boneless pork butt or shoulder
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 4 Extra-soft Rancho Meladuco Medjool Dates, pitted (see Note)
- 1 cup finely chopped fresh or canned pineapple
- One 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
- 6 garlic cloves, crushed
- ¼ cup hoisin
- 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
- 4 cups packed thinly sliced Napa cabbage
- 1 cup very thinly sliced sweet yellow onion
- ½ cup julienned fresh or canned pineapple
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias
- 1 small Fresno or serrano chile pepper, very thinly sliced
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
24 split Hawaiian sweet rolls and hot sauce (optional), for serving
Make the pork Remove any string or netting from around the pork and trim off any large pieces of fat. Season all over with salt and pepper. Place the pitted dates in a small bowl and, using a fork, mash them into a smooth paste. Rub the date paste all over pork. Transfer to a small rimmed half baking sheet or a large plate and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
Remove the pork from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature while you prep the remaining ingredients.
When you’re ready to cook, add the pork (and any accumulated juices) to the bowl of a 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Scatter the pineapple, ginger, garlic, hoisin, soy sauce, rice vinegar and ½ cup of water around the pork. Cover and cook on LOW until the pork is very tender and can be easily shredded, about 10 hours.
Using two forks, shred the pork into bite-size pieces. Toss the meat with its juices and keep warm until ready to serve.
Make the slaw In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, onion, pineapple, scallions and chile pepper. Drizzle the slaw with the rice vinegar and oil. Sprinkle the sugar and sesame seeds over the top and season with salt and pepper; toss to coat.
When you’re ready to eat, pile the shredded pork on warm rolls or slider buns and top with some of the slaw. Serve right away, passing hot sauce at the table.
NOTE If your dates are a little dry, then cover them with boiling water and let sit until softened, about 5 minutes. Drain, pit and mash away.
MAKE AHEAD The pork can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Reheat gently on the stove top or in a slow cooker.
Recipe & Photos: Julia Heffelfinger