Photo courtesty of Boschen American Samoa


flickr Food ready for the umu. Foreground: taro stalks and fish wrapped in a coconut leaf. Background: bowl full of palusami wrapped in the traditional ulu leaf and modern aluminum foil.

Making palusami (PAW-loo-SAW-mee) is the man’s job in Samoa as is most of the traditional cooking. Anything that goes into the umu (oo-moo), a type of above-ground oven that uses red hot lava rocks to cook the food, is handled by the men. Palusami is one of the most delicious parts of any traditional Samoan meal.

Made simply from taro leaves and coconut milk it is best paired with umu-baked taro. However, many add onions, lemon juice and seasoning to the coconut milk. It all depends on your particular preference. If taro leaves are not available in your neck of the woods, spinach leaves will work as well.

Keep reading for links to various recipes and a video showing you how to wrap palusami the traditional way in banana and ulu (oo-loo) or breadfruit leaves. Don’t have a banana or ulu tree growing in your yard? No problem, aluminum foil has become an acceptable modern substitute.

Be sure to let us know how your palusami turned out on Instagram or Facebook. Use #alohapcc.  Enjoy!

The young men getting the food ready for a big fiafia or luau. They will prep all the umu food, weave the baskets to hold the food, cook and then serve the food. Pretty awesome, huh? 

Here is a link to a recipe for palusami from the Heart Foundation of New Zealand.

Enjoy this great video showing exactly how to fold the leaves and wrap the palusami.


The perfect complement to palusami is freshly baked umu taro.

Here is another link to a palusami  recipe variation.

For a real, live demonstration of the umu visit the Polynesian Cultural CenterUmu interactive demonstrations are held three days a week. You can help make and sample the food. 

Call 1-800-367-7060 or visit for all the details.  


Author’s Bio
me2Susan Kunz is a long time resident of Laie.

Originally from Samoa, she has had a long

love affair with Hawaiian food with Lomi Lomi

Salmon being one of her favorites. She

currently works at the Polynesian Cultural

Center and enjoys spending time with her

husband and the five of her eight

children who still live in Hawaii plus two of her

five grandchildren.