This is a traditional part of a Tahitian ahima’a, or pit barbeque. If using taro leaves, make sure to follow the first step to avoid a mouth on fire. The leaves must be cooked in saltwater initially to remove irritating cacium oxalate from the leaves. Taro leaves can be difficult to find, so spinach is a perfectly respectable substitute. The Hawaiian version is called chicken luau. Coconut cream is the thick coconut milk that rises to the top of a can of coconut milk. Avoid shaking the can before you open it and you can skim it right off the top.
- Taro leaves (fafa), or spinach, chopped — 1 1/2 pounds
- Oil — 2 or 3 tablespoons
- Chicken thighs — 1 1/2 pounds
- Onions, finely chopped — 2
- Garlic, minced — 2 or 4 cloves
- Gingerroot, minced — 1-inch piece
- Stock or water — 1 1/2 cups
- Salt and pepper — to taste
- Cornstarch or arrowroot — 2 or 3 teaspoons
- Coconut cream (see notes) — 1 cup
- If using taro leaves, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Add the taro leaves, reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Drain and squeeze dry. If using spinach,.
- Heat the oil over medium-high flame in a large pot.
- Brown the chicken on all sides in the hot oil and remove to a plate.
- Saute the onion, garlic and ginger in the remaining oil until the onion is translucent. Add back the chicken pieces and the stock or water, salt and pepper.
- Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes.
- Add the taro leaves or spinach and simmer for another 15 minutes, or until the chicken is tender.
- Stir the cornstarch or arrowroot into 2 or 3 tablespoons of cold water and then stir the slurry into the simmering sauce to thicken it lightly. Stir in coconut cream to finish and serve over rice.
- If using frozen spinach, thaw first, then squeeze dry before adding to the simmering chicken.