July 21, 2013

Satisfying the Craving of a Pregnant Woman: Lupulu for Dinner

During this pregnancy, Lady Hiva has not had many cravings. But when she does have something she wants, it is usually something we have to make home. Japanese Croquette, for example was one of those foods. I had to run to the store to get some Panko flakes so we could finish them and I called Heather as I was at the store.

I said something like, “Who craves Japanese Croquettes?” Don’t get me wrong, I really like them, but I found it to be an odd craving.

Heather answered, “Well, if you eat weird food, then you will crave weird food.” She says this in reference to the fact Lady and I love foods from all cultures and will integrate them into our diet. Thai, Filipino, Japanese, Tongan, Mexican, Indian…

This week Lady Hiva has really been craving Lu. Lu is a Tongan dish, but there are Samoan, Filipino and Hawaiian versions of it too, made with lu (taro) leaves, meat, coconut milk, onions and sometimes tomatoes. Traditionally, all the ingredients are put together in a  few layers of tinfoil and cooked slowly until the lu leaves are soft.

Boiling the haka (starches) in coconut milk

Lady’s mum makes lu every Sunday and of course all big occasions have lu. It is a bit of a specialty food because taro leaves are hard to buy off of the islands. But not having ingredients has never stopped us before. We have learned how to make homemade tortillas, salsa, and improvised recipes so they taste right.

Lu is short for the actual dish. Tongans refer to the lu by the type of meat inside. lupulu is beef, lusipi is lamb, lumoa is chicken. Lady and I only like lupulu, which is made with cappa-pulu (canned beef…we called it corned beef in English).

Last time Lady and I tried to make improvised lu we substituted the lu leaves with collard greens. The taste of the inside was correct, but the leaves don’t disintegrate like taro leaves do. This time we chose to use spinach.

We spent nearly three hours scouring the Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Hispanic grocery stores for ingredients. And we found them all. Of course you have to have fresh sweet potato and tapioca stem for the starch—that we found at the Chinese market…and a large box of ripe mangoes! (the best we have had since leaving Manila). Lady only uses the “best” coconut milk and corned beef. Those come from Thailand and New Zealand respectively. I took a photo of the brands, because not any substitute will do! HAHA…only the best!

Lady and I prepared the food and it was fun to see how the house smelled like lu as it cooked. Lady said it smelled like “Sunday Mornings.” I thought it smelled like weddings—for hours and hours the night before the family sits and makes hundreds of lu for guests to eat the next day.

Lady couldn’t stop just with lu, she also made Pani-popo—dinner rolls baked with a coconut milk sauce. Very fattening, and very good. 

So, we were pleasantly full by the end of the day. Not to mention proud of ourselves for improvising and having it work out! Lady was so excited to tell her mum about our success!

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