Palusami traditional food

Palusami traditional food

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Palusami traditional food

Palusami is a Samoan delicacy made with luscious coconut milk and tender taro leaves. While it is a main dish in Samoa, palusami is eaten throughout the Pacific in some form. It is a popular dish at family feats and most celebrations. Some people can’t live without palusami in many parts of Polynesia. Thus far, it is known as laulau in Hawaii and palusami in Samoa and Fiji.

Traditionally onions and fresh coconut cream is wrapped in tender taro leaves and baked in underground oven, know as lovo. You may season with salt and pepper or garlic. Many people prefer to add corned beef or mutton too. Nowadays, many people use conventional ovens instead of lovos. So, if you prefer to cook the old way, you may need a fire with low heat. Corned meat is precooked, so you are cooking taro leaves and tenderise onions.

Recipe evolution

Migration to other countries has seen recipe evolution. Taro leaves are scarce in countries like the USA, Australia and New Zealand. Hence, there has been a shift to Swiss chard or silverbeet. They are excellent substitute to taro leaves. In fact, you require big, edible leafy vegetable. Apparently, spinach works well too. However, rolling it may be little difficult.

The leaves are to roll like a present; not like a joint. So, taking one of the long sides fold it over. Then folder over the two short sides. Close it with the other long side. Thus far, do the same with the aluminium foil to seal it. You may want to use 3 to 4 leaves per palusami loaf. It helps to reduce the amount of coconut cream seeping out. Thus objective is to prevent any leakage. This is what contains the flavour.


You may choose to cook these over real fires or bake in conventional oven. Bake in medium heat for about 30 minutes. It is important for leaves to be well done, especially if you are using taro leaves. Otherwise you are waiting for the leaves and onions to steam and become tender.

Traditionally, palusami is eaten with a starchy like taro, and cassava. Green bananas and breadfruit are staple too. However, most Samoans prefer their favourite as taro. It is often plain boiled taro. Today, the modern shift sees it served with steamed rice and macaroni salad. It is common in Hawaii. Should you be looking for something more tantalising, you may try few curry recipes. You can craft many beautiful dishes. Cook Islands version consists of fillings such as pork, or fish and it is known as Rukau.


Taro leaves has the presence of calcium oxalate in the plant. When not cooked properly, it may give annoying itch. It often affects the throat or mouth and sometimes the stomach. So, it is crucial to cook taro leaves properly to eliminate itchiness. A dash of lemon juice over cooked dish helps to minimise the itch too.

There are other options to add if you don’t prefer corned beef or corned mutton. You may substitute with minced chicken on pork. However, you may want to allow little more cooking time.