Lu Moa (Baked Coconut Chicken)
Recipe by Mele Vaikeli (Nuku’alofa, Tonga)
A Tongan dish traditionally cooked in an underground oven on Sundays.
2 pounds chicken (can be boned or boneless)
2 cans coconut milk
24 taro leaves (can substitute collard greens or kale)
6 yams or sweet potatoes
Equipment: Heavy duty foil, knives, cutting boards, large casserole or Dutch oven.
Peel the yams or sweet potatoes, cut in thirds, and boil. Wash taro leaves, chop chicken into 2-inch squares (even if it has bone, chop the bone right with it into two inch squares). Chop onions. Lay out a 12-inch square of thick foil, stack six leaves at right angles on the foil. Pour about 1/2 cup of raw chopped chicken in the middle, and a handful of onions. Sprinkle with salt. Gather foil with hands into a bowl shape, and pour about 1/2 cup of coconut milk into the chicken/onion/leaves. Wrap leaves around the top of the chicken and onions, and secure the foil into a large softball-sized packet. Put in an underground oven and cook for three hours, or in a Dutch oven dish in a conventional oven for 1-2 hours. Lu Moa is cooked when the leaves are soft and buttery-looking and you cannot distinguish one leaf from the others. Serve by putting one foil packet on each plate along with two to three chunks of yam or sweet potato. When you’re ready to eat, unwrap the foil and enjoy the chicken with the yam or sweet potato.