February 20, 2009

How to Make Laplap

(This is part of an ongoing series chronicling memories of my life growing up as a missionary kid in Vanuatu. For links to previous posts you can go here)

Laplap is the stable traditional food in Vanuatu. It’s an acquired taste, having the consistency of heavy stodgy pudding. Most people when they first have it are not a fan, but I can’t remember a time when I didn’t like it. I looked forward to feasts and meals with Ni-Vanuatu families because it meant we would be able to eat it. Laplap was not something that we ever ate in our house – mainly because Mum and Joshua did not eat it, but also because we lacked an appropriate place to prepare it.

This laplap has been prepared for a feast so has meat on it.

Lap lap is made from a variety of root vegetables. My favourite was from purple yam, but you can also make it from other types of yams, taro and manioc. You can also make it from cooking bananas.

First you need to light a fire in a small hallow in the ground. When it’s died down a bit and has lots of warm coals in it you fill the fire with smooth round stones. These stones need to heat up, so you can leave it there while you prepare the laplap.

Next you get the vegetable, you need a few large yam. Peel it and cut it into chunks. Grate the yam using a piece of metal which has had holes nailed into it. This creates a large surface of small sharp spikes which grates the yam to a thick pulp.

Then you grate some coconuts. You need to use older coconuts which have a thick layer of coconut flesh on them. Husk the coconut, use a bush knife to tap the shell in half and then grate the coconut on a specially designed grater which is curved to fit inside the coconut shell.

Now lay out a layer of laplap leaves. Laplap leaves look like Banana leaves, but they aren’t (Don’t ask me how, I think they are a bit thicker). You need to layer it in different directions so that the yam pulp won’t leak out. Now spread the yam pulp out into a circle, about 5 cm thick.

Mama Annette is helping me to spread out the laplap - Joshua is sitting
on the coconut grater, grating coconut.

You can wrap it up like this, but I like to cover the laplap with a green leaf vegetable which is called Chines cabbage, it’s kind of like spinach. You then cover the lot with coconut milk. To get the milk you scoop up a mound of the coconut flesh in you hand, or some coconut husk and squeeze. Out pours a rich white liquid. You keep scooping up more mounds of coconut flesh and keep squeezing it to get all the yummy milk out you can. (You can also collect coconut milk and simmer it down to create coconut cream.)

I am squeezing out the coconut milk.

Now wrap up the laplap and tie it up with ropes made from the stems of the laplap leaves. By now the fire has died down and you can take out all the stones and put them to one side (they are extremely hot, so use large tongs made from splitting a wooden stick). Scoop out the ash, and put a layer of hot stones in the bottom of the hollow. With a friend you can carry the laplap and lay it on top of the stones. Now cover the laplap parcel with more stones. Cover the stones with heshin sack and leaves to keep the heat in.

Leave it for a few hours. Take all the stones off and open it up. Top with some more coconut cream and cut into chunks to eat – yum!


Anonymous said...

Hello, is it possible to use electric oven for this? Would be nice if it was possible.


emily said...

Hi - I stumbled accross your awesome site because I was trying to find out how to make lap lap. Found out, and then couldn't stop reading all your other posts! I am holding a fundraiser this Friday night to raise money for educational and medical supplies for Port Olry, Vanuatu. We are screening a movie, with supper and raffles etc. In the last few days I have had so many Island people contact me about the fundraiser wanting to help. I wanted to make it extra special by including some national food and drink in the supper. Hopefully it works out - I have just had a complete stranger (I live in a North Qld town) arrive at my doorstep with 5kilos of cassava! You seems like such a lovely genuine person - I hope your life continues to be rich and rewarding. :)

Erin said...

Anon- I tried once to replicate it in an oven, without success. But that doesn't mean it isn't possible :)

Emily - great to hear of others who have connections with Vanuatu! Let me know how the fundraiser goes :)