Assignment 47: Tuvalu

TUV map.jpgLocation: South Pacific
Population: 10,640
Capital: Funafuti
Geography: A volcanic archipelago consisting of three islands and six atolls
Language: English, Tuvaluan
Signature flavours: Coconut, pulaka, taro and taro leaf, breadfruit, seafood, sea bird

The Menu

Tuvalu is a tropical island paradise and a fresh seafood-lover’s dream. It is also the least visited nation on earth. Perhaps as a result of this, Tuvaluan recipes have not been proliferated across the internet. I had a very hard time finding any, in fact. After finding just one, I emailed Tuvalu for help. They must be busy over there, because no response came. In the end, I had to develop a menu based on the ingredients they use and the flavours they might enjoy. This menu is research-based, but not authentically Tuvaluan, other than my first menu item.

TUV making

Palusami: A layered casserole traditionally containing taro leaf, corned beef, and coconut  milk. Mine was made with spinach and veggie beef. This recipe has been imported from nearby(ish) Samoa, so Tuvaluans often refer to it as “samoa.”

Prep and cooking time: 60 min
Difficulty: 2/5

Boiled Sweet Potato: This special-occasion root vegetable was boiled up and served with butter.

Prep and cooking time: 20 min
Difficulty: 1/5

TUV tuna

Seared Tuna with Honey Soy Glaze and Pineapple Salsa: Well, the name of this dish pretty much gives it away — pan-seared ahi tuna with a ginger, honey, and soy sauce glaze, served atop a salsa of pineapple, jalapeño, and red onion.

Prep and cooking time: 60 min
Difficulty: 3/5

TUV pudding

Banana Coconut Pudding: A thick coconut pudding served over sliced ripe banana.

Prep and cooking time: 20 min
Difficulty: 2/5

The Shopping List

I wanted to find taro instead of sweet potato, but Toronto is temporarily out, apparently. I settled for sweet potato, even though it’s more of a party veg, while taro is more of an everyday staple. The beautiful ahi tuna came from Hooked, Inc. All my other ingredients were found at Freshco.

TUV fillet
Look at that beautiful tuna!

The Meal

The first thing I got ready was the palusami, since it had to bake for almost an hour. The recipe called for corned beef, and I used soy ground beef, fried up with some onions and spices, between layers of fresh spinach. As I poured the coconut milk over the casserole dish, I thought that palusami was going to be either delicious or very weird. The verdict, an hour later, was delicious.

TUV casserole

The spinach wilted during baking, and the coconut milk soaked into everything and caramelized a little. It was something absolutely different from anything I had ever eaten before. I served it alongside a heap of boiled sweet potato for colour.

TUV palu

The pride and joy on my table tonight, though, was the seared tuna. I picked up a very high-quality piece of ahi at Toronto fishmonger Hooked. After marinating the fish in a sauce of soy, ginger, garlic, and honey for nearly an hour, the tuna was pan seared, leaving it rare on the inside and meaty on the outside.

TUV pan
The searing process is underway

It was served over a spicy pineapple salsa (which complemented the sweet-and-saltiness of the tuna), and topped with a reduction of the same marinade. The dish was spectacular — a perfect combination of flavours and colours.

TUV salsa
Pineapple salsa — also includes jalapeño peppers, red onion, lemon juice, and salt


Dessert was a thick coconut and vanilla pudding over sliced banana and a cup of extra-sweet tea, like they enjoy in Tuvalu. The pudding was whipped up fairly quickly. It was creamy, with crunchy pieces of grated coconut, and the bananas underneath made this feel like a truly tropical experience.

When you get your food blog going, Tuvalu, I’m going to be your first follower.


Disclaimer: I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a passionate cook with a curiosity for flavours I’ve never tried. For great recipes from gifted local cooks, follow the links above.

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