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Chicken Lap Lap – Polynesian Style Chicken with Taro

We have just spent a week visiting family in Rarotonga, Cook Islands where we really did just relax at the beach and not get distracted by our everyday life of emails, blogging, Twitter, Facebook since we had no access to it. I thought I was going to blog while I was there, Facebook pictures of me lounging on the beach and tweet about local cuisine…how reliant we become on our media outlets and to find you have none came as a shock…but not for long. After the first morning the IPad and mobile phone where soon replaced with a good book, snorkeling in the lagoons, taking a siesta, shopping at the local food markets, sampling new cuisine and sun set cocktails.

While there I bought a book on South Pacific cuisine called Me’a Kai by Robert Oliver which is beautifully presented with glorious photos of local dishes, the people and scenery. I have never cooked Pacific cuisine even though we have access to a lot of the ingredients in Auckland so this Sunday, upon our return, we headed to Avondale market were we knew we would be able to buy Taro root and Taro leaves which are common to South Pacific dishes. The has a great combination of spices with a creamy coconut base. We also had the pleasure of sharing this meal with Sue from Couscous & Conscious who is currently staying in Auckland.


  • 2 large banana leaves
  • 5 cups grated taro root
  • 200ml coconut milk
  • 2 cups spinach, wilted & chopped
  • 4 tomatoes, quartered
  1. Pre heat oven to 180C.
  2. Boil or steam the banana leaf to soften and lay one leaf in the bottom of a large greased casserole dish.
  3. Cover banana leaf and casserole dish with grated taro root and pour over 100ml of coconut milk. Place the spinach on top of the taro.
  4. Place the quartered tomatoes around the side of the dish.
  5. Pour 100ml of coconut milk over everything and cover with another banana leaf and the casserole dish lid.

Chicken Marinade

  • 1 free range chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1.5 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds
  • 1 chili
  • 2 cloves garlic
  1. Place chicken pieces in a large bowl.
  2. Grind spices in a mortar & pestle then add chili and garlic and grind together to form paste.
  3. Add lime juice and oil to the paste then pour over and coat chicken pieces completely.
  4. Place chicken in a roasting dish.
  5. Put both the taro base and chicken tray in the oven to roast for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes remove the casserole lid and top banana leaf off the taro and roast for a further 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked.


  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp thinly sliced ginger
  • Juice and zest of 2 small limes
  • 1tbsp flour
  • 200ml coconut milk
  • 2 spring onion, finely sliced
  • Salt & pepper
  1. While chicken is cooking make the sauce
  2. Place a tablespoon of oil in a pan with the ginger and garlic over a low heat.
  3. Cook for several minutes then add the flour to form a paste and cook for a few more minutes.
  4. Add the coconut milk, lime juice and zest and spring onions and cook for 10 minutes over a low heat.
    Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble arrange the chicken pieces over the taro base and then pour over the coconut sauce just before serving.

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hi Alli, how funny, I just this minute sent an email to Sue to see if she is ok as I hadn’t heard from her for a while. This looks amazing – I haven’t really eaten much traditional Polynesian food either, except a few times at Pasifika – glad you had fun in Raro!

    April 11, 2011
  2. Bev #

    I like this one. I am already looking forward to more Pacific cuisine recipe ideas from you.

    April 11, 2011
  3. I am familiar with how this chicken is cooked. Taro in Indonesia is also popular besides cassava and kumara. They have varieties of kumaras there and my favourite is the purple flesh ones. Taros also have different varieties. They also have purple taro. They are yummy! I wonder if we can grow them in here. Lovely to hear you had had great time in Rarotonga. I will visit some time. I haven’t been much around New Zealand myself, pity me. Been going back to Bali a lot. Catch you up again, Alli.

    April 11, 2011
  4. Looks divine! I am keen for a trip to Raro, the Otara market is more my way, hopefully would have similar ingredients….

    April 11, 2011
  5. mairi29 #

    I was the same in Raro…mild panic re lack of connectivity & then bliss 🙂 Just looks heavenly…a great way to hold on to the warmer climes…you are inspiring me to get out the cookbook I bought in Raro that I don’t think has been opened! Or I may just cook this up, thx Alli.

    April 12, 2011
  6. Never seen a food post on Polynesian food, and I love the window you’ve opened here Alli. Sounds delightfully fragrant. Mmmmm…

    April 12, 2011
  7. this looks and sounds so delicious

    April 15, 2011
  8. Love this!! Thanks for loving Me’a Kai and loving the Pacific. I don’t know if you know, but Me’a Kai just won the GOURMAND AWARD ( Paris) for BEST COOKBOOK IN THE WORLD 2010, beating out the New York Times and NOMA.
    But you know that!
    Keep it coming
    Robert Oliver

    May 4, 2011
    • peasepudding #

      Thanks Robert, it’s an honour to have you visit my blog. I have become a big fan of Pacific food lately with family in Raro and hope to take culinary tours up their next year as part of my cooking school. Your book is a great inspiration with such wonderful recipes and stories of the People of the pacific and truly deserves the awards it has won.

      May 4, 2011

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