A recipe from Tuvalu that champions two staples from the Pacific – taro and coconut cream.
Marama T-Pole, of Tuvalu and European descent, is both an experienced television host on Tagata Pasifika and newsreader at RNZ National, and an expert in eating Tuvalu food. With help from her Aunty Fulu, she’s shared her baked taro recipe called talo tokotokoi.
The theme for Vaiaso o te Gana Tuvalu (Tuvalu language week, which ended last weekend) was fakamautu ke mautakitaki te Gagana Tuvalu mo te atafai fakaaloalo mo te amanaiagina. That translates to “nurture the sustainability of the Tuvalu language with care, respect and dignity”; as Aunty Fulu made the baked taro for us she spoke only in the Tuvaluan language.
The main ingredients are taro and coconut cream, and the dish basically means “you bake the taro and once it’s ready, mash the taro up into pieces and pour coconut cream on top,” T-Pole explains. “It’s momona (delicious).”
This particular dish reminds her of special occasions with the Tuvalu community. There’s always a fakaala (feast) and one of the most popular dishes on the table is the baked taro. “I always have to ask who made it because I will only eat it if it’s made by Aunty Fulu,” T-Pole laughs.
“A big fakafetai lasi to Fulu for sharing her wisdom of food,” she adds. “My Sāmoan colleagues do recommend eating baked taro with corned beef.”
- 2 pink taro (preferably the taro imported from Sāmoa or Fiji)
- 400ml Kara coconut cream
- 1 cup sugar
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
Peel off the taro skin including slicing off the top and bottom parts – Aunty Fulu would use the lip of an unopened corned beef can to shave the taro skin off, which she finds is better than using a knife which can easily cut off bits of taro along with the skin. She says it’s a huge waste of taro.
Slice each taro in half lengthwise and place each piece onto an oven tray and straight onto the middle oven rack to bake.
Cook the taro for an hour until the smell of the vegetable takes over the kitchen.
While the taro bakes, pour the coconut cream into a pot and warm it on medium heat. Aunty Fulu regularly stirred the cream for half an hour, and only clockwise as “changing the direction of stirring will make the dish taste bad,” in her experience.
After 25 minutes of stirring, add one cup of sugar, or a bit more if you like things sweeter.
Continue stirring until you can’t see any small bubbles in the cream. The mixture will thicken, which is the consistency you’re after. Take the saucepan off the heat once it’s done.
After an hour, carefully turn each piece of taro over to bake on the other side using a tea towel to cover your hand or an oven mitt. The taro should be showing crack lines.
Bake the taro for another 20-25 minutes before removing from the oven.
Following the cracked lines on the taro, use a knife to break them up into chunks.
Place the taro into a bowl and pour over coconut cream mixture.
Lightly mix the two together, making sure the taro is fully covered in cream.
Serve and enjoy. In Tuvalu, before eating, diners loudly say “Manuia!”, which is a way of blessing the food and those dining with you.
This is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.