Sunday, January 6, 2013

Palusami, mainland edition

I love my big braddah (brother) Sandy. He is a great guy with a big heart. Amazing Musician and "braddah of all trade", he can fix anything!!!
He would do anything for all his "little sis" (as he would always call my Ate and I, since we are short and smaller than most Samoan... haha).  He takes care of us, very much to the Samoan tradition, he will do what he can to help whenever we are in a bind, or in some cases he protects us. When I broke up with one of the ex in Hawai'i, Sandy offered to "take care" of the matter Island way. No, we didn't let him and his braddah to make trouble and it was the thought that counts. He is a proud Samoan and lives the culture of his root.

My sister had our annual New Years day jam again. We celebrate the New Year Island style, lots of music and a few hula here and there. Of course we have Island food. In the past, my sis would either make Filipino food and I would make Kalau pork. She asked me to make something for "Da Sandman" this year. I know exactly what she meant.  It's time Palusami time!

Palusami is a classic Samoan favorite. Each of the Polynesian islands have their own version. We have laulau in Hawai'i, which technically is a version of Palusami. Just like Hula, each island has a different version and represents the flavor of the land.  You will also find Palusami in big Samoan family celebration.

Classically, Palusami is just packet of taro leaves in coconut milk. There are difference variations with meat or fish. One interesting fact: Corned beef is very popular in Samoan cooking. They usually use the Palm brand from New Zealand. I guess we have Spam in Hawai'i, they have Palm corned beef!!

Palusami is usually cooked in an imu and just like laulau, it is the last layer on top of the big pig with the taro and the banana, before you "close the imu". The main difference between our laulau with palusami is the use of coconut milk. Every time I make palusami, I thought of this little story.  I was chatting with Sandy at the halau regarding setting up the imu for the annual summer lu'au at my house. He asked whether I was making laulau, then he said, "Hey sis, can you throw some coconut milk in the couple?" Kumu heard him and got a very stern voice coming from the back: "She cooks Hawaiian, no Samoan..". We hele hele (move out) of the room and didn't say a word. Did I dare put coconut milk in those laulau that year? You can guess.

Just like most old style cooking, there is no measurement in the recipe and you can't go wrong with it!
I am making a corned beef version and it has been adapted to what I can get here on the Mainland.
1 - We are in the winter and I cannot get taro leaves in the Asian store or sometimes called lu'au leaves. They are too fragile to bring us with the temp. here. I am using spinach instead, You will need a lot of it. I am putting in 2.5 pounds, basically one big package from Costco. My braddah needs to eat some vegetable. The man would not even help me eat 1/2 a sandwich if there is any greens in it!!!  BUT he will eat it up this way.
2 - I cooked a chunk of corned beef instead of using the can. I can control the amount of fat. Sorry Sand-man, you need to eat some version of heathier cooking
3 - Light coconut milk does not work here. Since we are using spinach, there is more liquor released from it than taro leaves. It will get too soupy. Best is to use frozen coconut milk or a can of coconut cream
4 - Before you serve, check to make sure, it is not too "soupy" to your taste, my sis likes the juice, however our big braddha will drain most of it out. This is another reason why to stay with a heavy coconut cream or milk.

If you want to serve this the Samoan way, boil a couple of plantain, peeled taro and cassava  (yucca) with a can of light coconut milk till everything is tender and still holding it's shape.
The pan that you see here, disappeared in less than 15 mins...

Palusami, mainland style

1 40oz bag of washed spinach
1 cooked corned beef, can into bit size pieces.
1 bag/1 can of coconut milk/cream
1 onion, sliced (there is usually no onion, but this is how Sandy's version)
Banana leaves (optional)
You can line a 9x13 pan with banana leaves, I thought I had some in the freezer, but I didn't. It help gives it the "imu" flavor.
Preheat the oven to 350F
Line 1/2 of the spinach leaves on the bottom of the pan, you will need to keep packing it down.
Sprinkle with some sea salt. I am using Hawaiian red alaea salt.
Top with all the corned beef pieces
Then the onion.
Pour 2/3 of the coconut milk over the top
Pack the top layer with the rest of the spinach,
yes, it will look at a "mountain"
Another sprinkle of salt
Top of the rest of the coconut milk,
If you have banana leaves, cover the top then with foil and let it bake for about an hour
Remove the foil and banana leave on top, ready to serve!

Serve:  8 mainlander, or 10 hula dancers  or 4 Samoan!

My big braddah: Sandy Tuipelehake Suapaia
.If you need Polynesian Entertainment in the Upper Midwest, he is "da man" - Twin Cities Entertainment: 612 280 5348


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