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Samoan To'onai

Passport & Plate - Palusami

Samoa | Saturday, 7 March 2015 | 5 photos


Ingredients
Coconut Meat (1 cup for each person)
Taro Leaves (5-6 for each person)

 

How to prepare this recipe
Obtain fresh coconuts. Husk and crack in half. Sit on a wooden stool with a sharp comb at the end, and grate the coconuts. Scrape all of the white coconut meat into bowl below stool. Use a tauaga (a strainer made from stem of the fibers of the laufao plant) to strain coconut meat into a milk. You can also add hot boiling water to extract the milk. Place meat in tauaga and squeeze out the milk. Take 2-3 young taro leaves and place them on top of each other. Wrap together so that they make a cone shape. Pour about one cup of coconut milk into each cone. Fold edges together to close.Wrap an additional 2 taro leaves around the bundle to make the bundle hold together. Place on top of fire for 1 hour, or put in steamer for three hours.

 

The story behind this recipe
I learned how to make Palusami when I was studying abroad in Samoa last spring. As I was immersed in my homestay, my family taught me how to make palusami, which is prepared with almost every to'onai (sunday feast). It is served with taro, breadfruit, or meat. In Samoa I learned the importance of food and its integral connection to culture. I have always considered myself a minor foodie, but my experience in Samoa really made me realize the true significance of food in understanding a people and their culture. In Samoa, food is one of the most telling parts of their way of life. As I stayed in a village for 8 nights, on Sunday we had to'onai, which is the Samoan feast that occurs after every sunday's church service. Church is also a very important part of Samoan life. Here, I truly felt so immersed in the culture as we went out to the trees to find coconuts, picked the taro leaves, and then all came together as a community to prepare the meal. There were about 25 of us all together. This experience was so incredible and while there are ways to produce the recipe here in the United States, I refrain from doing so as I don't have access to fresh coconuts and taro leaves. Often, people substitute the leaves with spinach and the coconuts with canned coconut milk. My experience was so incredible because I knew exactly where the food came from, I knew that people worked tirelessly to grow these plants and we all came together to eat it together. The organic experience of this meal was waht made it so special. It was the most literal "farm-to-table"meal I have ever had.

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