The Tongan region has been inhabited since the 5th century BC. Their cuisine has developed over 3000 years and includes many dishes. Lū Sipi is one of them; a Polynesian favorite of lamb and onion wrapped in taro leaves and backed with coconut milk.
When Lū appear at meals or feasts it represents that the table belongs to a Tongan! Lū is part of the country. Almost all Tongans prepare an “umu” every Sunday so that the whole family can come together and eat after church. Sunday’s typically have the most special meal in the week as Lū Sipi (mutton) or Lū Kapa Pūlū (corned beef) are served. The ingredients are easily grown and found throughout the islands. The taro plant is considered a staple food in Tonga along with coconut milk which is also part of Lū. Most Tongans living in the cities or larger villages buy the ingredients from the market. But on the outer islands, where markets are unavailable, men go to the bush to collect the lū leaves and root crops before the Sunday feast.
Tonga PCV Farfum Ladroma told me about the competitive world of cooking Lu Sipi in Tonga:
“Throughout the islands, Peace Corps Volunteers have an annual competition amongst each other to see who can make the best and most delicious Lū. They conjure up their own recipes. The only rule is that you have to use lū leaves. Extra points are awarded to those who use onions and coconut milk. Tongan counterparts or other locals are asked to judge each Lū entry based on different categories. The overall winner of the Lū cook off wins the beloved Lū trophy which has a small pig on it. The event is very competitive amongst PCVs and is always a great event to look forward to each year. Some examples of past lū entries include: “cheesy broccoli and fish lu,” “sweet and sour lu,” “cinnamon apple lū,” “three bean Mexican lū” and more.”
- 1-2 large taro leaves per Lu
- 6-12 bite size pieces of lamb meat per Lu
- Coconut milk
- Aluminum foil
* Taro leaves can be found online, however availability fluctuates throughout the year. You can use large spinach leaves or banana leaves instead, although the taste differs slightly.
- Cut meat into bite size pieces. Measure other ingredients accordingly.
- Cut out a piece of foil for each Lū Sipi. Lay several lū leaves on the tin foil, overlapping the leaves on top of one another.
- Spread out several pieces of sipi (lamb) on top of lū leaves. Put onion pieces into Lū Sipi.
- Pour on coconut milk as desired.
- Gather lū leaves around, and close foil.
- Bake on cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 1 hr. or until finished.
To find out more about Pacific Island dishes, visit The CreateSpace Bookstore.