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Friday, September 4, 2015

Samoan Luau: Delicious Green Baby Poop

local samoan food, provisioning
Taro leaves at Pago Pago's Fagatogo Square, American Samoa.
Walking past the Fagatogo market – where locals sell their produce -- massive bundles of huge green leaves caught my eye.  Were they taro or banana leaves?  Taro. 

“What do you use them for?” I asked.
“Luau.”
“Luau?  Ummm, a celebration with grass skirts, dancing and oven pits?”
“No.  It’s a stew… taro leaves*, chicken and coconut milk….”  Further explanations only caused further confusion, but here in American Samoa, ancient traditional food preparation mysteries can be easily revealed thanks to internet search.

Chicken Luau; image pilfered from Yelp.  My galley was
too trashed making luau to consider taking photos
of the end result.
*Culinary curious mainlanders, take heart.  You can use spinach in place of taro leaves for a similar albeit slightly different flavor.

Eventually I returned, paid my $5, and bought a big green bundle or taro leaves.

A little research led to this MauiNow.com chicken luau recipe, which calls for a whopping 3 pounds of taro leaves.  Then again, that bundle was big.  What else was I going to do with it?

Excellent Palusami maker, Pago Pago's Fagatogo Square,
American Samoa.  Her Palusami was only $2.  Her $3 Luau PiPi
was also good, but her $2 PaPa. a traditional brick-like dessert,
I chucked overboard, finding out 
afterward Steve of Armagh liked it.
The gauntlet – or in this case – a substantial quantity of taro leaves – was thrown.  Wayne, as usual, was skeptical the end result would be edible.

Our little boat galley became awash in taro leaf debris.  My hands stained brown as I winnowed down the pile, tearing out stems, veins and creating bite-sized pieces, before cooking it.  “Am I making this too hard?” I wondered…..

I swung back by Fagatogo market and asked another more articulate local – “How do you prep these leaves for luau?”

When the leaves are this small, she said, all you do is just pull the end off, demonstrating as she spoke.  Thanking her profusely, I let her know she just saved me at least a half-hour’s more work!

Palusami, a delicious dessert-y taro leaf and coconut cream
local Samoan food.  It's possible to buy Palusami canned
for a little more than $3 in Samoa. 
I returned to the boat, finished the taro leaf prep and cooked the luau.

Properly forewarned, Maui Now admits “its presentation might be lacking,“ though it justifies the effort, claiming it’s “a sweet and savory delicacy and always a crowd pleaser.”

Presentation lacking?!? It looked like green baby poop. 

And yet, it was good enough for us to not only finish our portion, but to take seconds.

As 3 pounds of taro makes a substantial amount, I offered some to cruiser friends Steve and Patty of Armagh.  Really, it tastes much better than it looks, I tried to assure them.  Patty’s a bit less daring when it comes to unfamiliar foods.  Steve said, “I waited until it was dark enough, then ate it.  It was good.”

Will I make it again?  Maybe.  It would be easier the next time.  Guessing if I do, it will be in a wave of nostalgia.  Otherwise, for $1 - $5 to sample most local Samoa foods at an open air market, I’m more included

We anchored in American Samoa, next to Western Samoa.
This blog will post while we're in Niuatapatapu, Tonga.  Shelly of Firefly's boat is
marked from their anchoring spot in 
Niuatapatapu.
Location Location
This post was written while we were anchored in Pago Pago, American Samoa (S14.16.472 W170.40.456).  It will post while we're at our first Tonga island stop at, Niuataputapu (meaning 'Very Sacred Coconut') is often referred to more simplistically by sailors and the linguistically challenged as 'New Potato.' 

Anchor to anchor, it’s a little over 200 miles sail, a 2-day 24/7 sail. 

Google Earth image of our first Tonga stop, Niuatoputapu
"sacred coconut" though most other sailors call it "New Potato").
We’ve heard there is no wifi there, so if GWT goes dark for a bit, that’s why.  Hopefully, there will be enough time to pre-write a few blog posts and schedule them to run over that gap.  We’re not sure how long we’ll stay at Niuatoputapu, Tonga.  It will be a few more days sail from there until we’re in a populated enough portion of Tonga for internet.