The first time I visited St. John, my friend Angie and I took our rental car over on the ferry from St. Thomas and drove all around the island looking for some local Cruzan food. There were a couple of suggestions in the Frommers guide I had brought along, but one of them, a food truck, told us they had no more food left and the other cafe turned out not to be open that day. Thankfully, Angie had stashed some Teddy Grahams in the car with us or else I would've been a lot more hangry.
Hunger pangs notwithstanding, the hilly drive along Coral Bay, where we caught glimpses of clear turquoise waters and empty white beaches, enraptured me. Compared to tourist-packed, overdeveloped St. Thomas, this was truly paradise.
I returned to the island 8 years later, this time without a car, and with no desire to eat Teddy Grahams. I was, however, craving a turkey sandwich. So when my friend Sooyun and I decided to stop swimming at Honeymoon Beach and head to the nearby Caneel Bay Resort for lunch, that's what I ordered—even though I spotted "rum pork on crispy banana bread sandwich" listed on the specials. Sooyun was about to order something else, but I nudged her in its direction. And I immediately regretted not getting my own. Being the good friend that she is, Sooyun let me try a bite once it came, and I forgot about my turkey sandwich. I mean, how could a measly turkey sandwich compare to this masterpiece?
Imagine juicy pulled pork perfectly balanced by crunchy, vinegary red cabbage slaw sandwiched between two slices of buttered, griddled banana bread. You've got sweet and salty, unctuous and acidic, soft and crunchy, all going on in one bite. I was enchanted by this sandwich long after we left the island and determined to interpret it in my home kitchen. I tried looking for the menu listing to get a hint of how it was made, but when I couldn't find it online, I even tried messaging the resort through email and Instagram. Sadly there was no response, but I was undeterred.
I referred back to a trusted recipe I've used in the past to make kalua pork in the slow cooker. I added a quartered orange and some passion fruit rum (mango rum or spiced rum would work well too) to make it a little more tropical. For the red cabbage slaw, I kept it simple with just a dressing of vinegar, salt, and sugar, although if you have any coconut white balsamic vinegar, I highly suggest using that. For the banana bread, my preferred recipe is the one from the Flour cookbook by Joanne Chang, but you can use your favorite, as long as it's not so moist that it won't brown or hold together when griddled.
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For the pulled pork:
- 3 pounds boneless pork butt/shoulder
- 2 tablespoons smoked sea salt
- 1 orange, quartered
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/4 cup rum (tropical flavor like passion fruit or mango preferred)
To assemble the sandwiches
- 3 cups shredded red cabbage
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon coconut white balsamic vinegar (or other light vinegar)
- 1 teaspoon lemon or white sugar
- 2 loaves of your favorite banana bread
What would you do with banana bread as sandwich bread? Let us know in the comments!