The Samoan dish most popular amongst all the volunteers is easily palusami. Along with taro, palusami is a staple dish, always prepared in an umu oven. The good news for us palagis however, is that you certainly don't need an umu oven to prepare your own.
To make palusami all you need are (relatively young) taro leaves and coconut cream. If you wish, you can add some onion and some varieties see small pieces of chicken or fish added too. Preparing your taro leaves is important. The thicker part of the stem running down the leaf needs to be trimmed back, and it's important to break off the tip of each leaf as you construct your palusami. Not doing so will make for a bitter taste (or so every single Samoan I've asked says).
Once you've prepared your taro leaves making the palusami is easy. Lay one big leaf flat in your hand and rip up another into three or four small pieces and place them on top of the leaf. Make a small pocket of the leaf and place some diced onion in and then pour coconut cream in. Fold the leaf over to enclose the pocket and then wrap the leaf with aluminium foil.
Place the palusami in a small baking tray and cook in a conventional oven for about 45-60 minutes at 200° C. Simply unwrap the foil and carefully lift the palusami onto your plate. Yum!
Pictured here is a photo from the night a few of us made our palusami. Along with the palusami we cooked a couple of red snapper caught that morning (simply salted and dusted with flour) and some taro, carrot and breadfruit tempura. Served with some cold Vailima (the local beer) it made for a perfect pseudo-Samoan dinner.