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You can cook...Samoan style!

If it’s been a while since you’ve visited our PCC Samoan Village, “chief” Mātuauto Steve Lāulu notes that guests who arrive when the village opens at noon are invited to participate in helping prepare both the umu or heated-rocks-oven as well as several traditional Samoan food dishes, including:


Faiai eleni

Lani Young Pinterest





Faalifu fai



Breadfruit ulu





 Fai’ai eleni: The literal translation of the name of this Samoan dish — “mackerel brains” — doesn’t do justice to this delicious combination of small chunks of sardine-like fish baked in fresh coconut cream.    Sometimes palusami: A real Samoan treat made from fresh coconut cream, salt and onions cleverly wrapped in young taro leaves and baked in the umu.    Fa’alifu fa’i: Boiled green bananas with fresh coconut cream.    'Ulu: Breadfruit, when it’s in season, either baked in the umu or sometimes boiled.    Talo or taro: also either baked in the umu or sometimes boiled.

“Preparing food and serving it to guests is a very important part of our culture,” Lāulu said, “so we wanted our guests to experience parts of the process. We make an umu every afternoon, and we invite some of the guests to help us peel the green bananas, scrape ‘ulu, and then put it in the umu. Then by 2 o’clock each afternoon, some of them also use the i’ofi or coconut-midrib tongs — to pick up hot rocks and put it on the food in the umu.”

He further explained that these meatless umu usually only take about an hour to cook, “so many of the people come back about 3 o’clock each afternoon for free samples. It’s not for sale, and they just love it.”

“When they eat the fai’ai eleni, they say, ‘This is so good. What is it?’ They’re all like, ‘What!’, when I tell them it’s mackerel [a canned sardine-like fish] cooked with pe’epe’e or fresh coconut cream.”

“Of course, we make our own fresh coconut cream,” Lāulu said. “The bananas also grow right here at the PCC, or from the farm in the back of the PCC. We pick the breadfruit when it’s in season from around the Center and community.” He explained that bananas and taro grow year-found, but in Hawaii breadfruit usually ripens about twice a year. “It depends on geographical location and local conditions. The season is on right now until about November.”

So, don’t forget: Right after the canoe pageant is pau (over), make your way to the Samoan Village for some delicious “fish brains” — fai’ai eleni with a side of boiled bananas. Mānaia, the Samoans say: Delicious!


Story by Mike Foley