26 September 2019

It’s all FOOD this week, folks and basically all one meal. – that ended up as a LOT of leftovers.

Tevita, a friend from Samoa, is here, along with two young men: his brother, his son.  (I should have gotten THEIR photo … Now I think of it!  Lordy.)  Anyway – they are here for a big coral gardening and happy chicken workshop, and flights from Samoa as they are, the Samoans arrived several days early.  On Sunday night, the day before the coral work was to start, five people from Papua New Guinea (PNG) were to arrive.  Also we had homestay guests.  Only Ashmita in the kitchen, I was wondering how I was going to feed everybody when Tevita informed me, “We’ll make an umu on Sunday.”

“A what?”

“An umu.

It is the Samoan version of a Fijian lovo.  Kind of.   The umu is the star of this blog – but first I’m going to pull out one part of the umu prep and show it separately


Tevita’s son was opening both ends of two feed bags.

2019-09-22 new coconut squeezer 1  Cr.jpg

And then he was packing it with freshly grated coconut.

2019-09-22 new coconut squeezer 2  Cr.jpg

And then he rolled it into a doughnut and hung it on a branch.

2019-09-22 new coconut squeezer 3  Cr.jpg

And then he SQUEEZED.   Clockwise and counterclockwise – that coconut was squeezed dry.  Unlike our shade-cloth-and-guava-stick squeezer – this one can be a One-Man Show.

*     *     *


First off, the umu is above ground whereas the Fijian lovo is in a pit.  (The Samoans do have a pit oven called something else, but they usually make the umu.)

2019-09-22 umu 1  R.jpg

So you see they have cement blocks and banana trunks in a big square holding the firewood.  The cement blocks are removed before the firing starts.

2019-09-22 umu 2  R.jpg

As one person is getting the fire prepped, others are doing food prep.  They carried my electric grater out to the “cantina” – where one person is opening coconuts and the other is grinding.

2019-09-22 umu 3  R.jpg

The fire is lit.  You can see how tall they have piled the wood and coconut husks  Volcanic rocks are on the top.  And where some of the wood fell off, you see one of the boys using tongs made from a coconut frond to pick up the firebrands.

2019-09-22 umu 4  Cr.jpg

The fire is used for kitchen prep as well as cooking.  Here is island-style tin foil – a banana leaf being softened on the fire.

2019-09-22 umu 5  R.jpg

Here is a prepped chicken sitting on one of the soft banana leaves that will be used to wrap it.

2019-09-22 umu 6  Cr.jpg

Tevita bought OCTOPUS for this meal!   Man!   Yum!

2019-09-22 umu 7  R.jpg

Here is the start of palusami.  This is a standard dish in the Fijian lovo as well.  Coconut cream, onions, and secret ingredients going into taro leaves.

2019-09-22 umu 8  Cr.jpg

The difference is that Samoan palusami is then wrapped in a banana leaf, and then wrapped in a breadfruit leaf.  No tin foil.  And it looks like a happy green heart.

2019-09-22 umu 9 R.jpg

Here is the line up of most of the food that was to go in the umu, and Junia behind it acting like a boss.  The woven coconut leaf on the left has a whole barricuda.  Three chickens with tin foil on top of the banana leaves.  Two kitchen pots of octopus soup.  Peeled cassava and taro.  (There will be more.)

2019-09-22 umu 10 R.jpg

The fire has to be opened out.  Those coconut frond tongs are back at work, picking off the big pieces of wood.

2019-09-22 umu 11  Cr.jpg

The perimeter is removed and the stone are spread out.  The red hot stones.

2019-09-22 umu 13 R.jpg

The rocks and charcoal embers are teased so that all the rocks are on top.

2019-09-22 umu 14  R.jpg

And let the packing of the umu begin!   First banana leaves and then the meat in the middle:  3 chickens and one fish.

2019-09-22 umu 15 R.jpg

And on it went until here at the top – now by flashlight.  On the top are the palusami parcels – and now coconut shells, being filled with coconut and fish soup!  You also see hot rocks on top of the cassava, becoming a middle layer.

2019-09-22 umu 16 R.jpg

Finally, a blanket of banana leaves.   And now we wait.

But not so long, because those rocks are so hot.  It is only 20 minutes or so!

2019-09-22 umu 17  R.jpg

Here is some of the cassava and the fish out of the umu, with two of the happy cooks.

2019-09-22 umu 18  R.jpg

And here is my plate.

“This looks like Thanksgiving dinner,” said our Australian-American guests.  I completely agreed.

*     *     *


Mamau  means “full” or “sated”

Au sa mamau.   “I’m full!”

*     *     *

My Australian-American guests and I were totally blown away by Tevita, his little brother Fale (fah-lay), and his son Warren.  How on earth do they pull this off?  Well … we come to find out that Tevita opened a small resort in his village outside Apia several years ago.  They frequently have 40 or more guests.  I googled it.   It looks WONDERFUL.   My guests and I all plan to go there to see it live – and here is a link in case you are interested, too.

Matareva Beach Fales –  https://www.matarevabeachfales.com/

*     *     *

Happy week, everybody 🙂

*     *     *

4 thoughts on “26 September 2019

  1. Girlfriend- as many times as we’ve gone to the luau! Haha! Emu is underground. Umu is above ground. Emu steams food. Umu roasts food. Chief, being Samoan, says it every time. Haha! I don’t really expect you to have remembered it but I’ve heard it so many times it’s crazy. LOL!

    I will be home Saturday and back on writing track.

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Glad for all that, Laurel m’dear – but I asked my friend Tevita about “imu” – and he said that”s not the name – it is “hongo” or something like that – something very much NOT “imu” There are different dialects of Fijian, so probably the pit oven has different names in different Samoan dialects. That’s my guess anyway. Looking forward to your letter 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s