The weather is warming up, and that gets me into the mood for something tropical! I decided to cook a traditional Hawaiian dish called lau lau, which means “leaf leaf” in Hawaiian since it uses two different kinds of leaves. I recently learned how to make the classic dish from a native Hawaiian lady, and this is my spin on the tradition. 🙂
I served some of the shredded lau lau as an appetizer on rectangles of purple sweet potato with taro chips to garnish. I love how the colors of the potato and taro compliment one another, and I also think using both the leaf and the root of the taro plant balances the dish nicely.
We enjoyed the remaining lau lau as a main course for a few days (with the extra bits of baked sweet potato!) It is a bit of a project to make this dish, so I recommend making a lot for leftovers. Or, this is a great dish to serve a big crowd. Perfect for a summer backyard luau!
Chicken Lau Lau on Purple Sweet Potatoes with Taro Chips
9 chicken thighs, skin removed, trimmed of excess fat
Hawaiian sea salt
About 18 fresh taro leaves
About 18 ti leaves or 2 large banana leaves
2 large purple sweet potatoes (I used Okinawan sweet potatoes)
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Set aside either a large pot with a lid, or a large casserole dish with two layers of aluminum foil to cover.
Sprinkle the chicken liberally with salt, and rub the salt into the meat with your fingers.
Remove the tough stems from the taro leaves. If using ti leaves, remove the tough stems. If using banana leaves, cut into manageable pieces, approximately 8 or 9 inches in length.
Nestle 2 taro leaves together. Place 1 chicken thigh in the middle of the leaves. Wrap it into a bundle so the chicken is completely covered by the leaves.
Then wrap the taro bundle in the ti or banana leaves so it is completely covered. Either tie the bundles with kitchen twine (or traditionally, the stem of the ti leaf) or make sure the last fold is on the bottom so they stay closed while cooking.
Place the bundles in the prepared pot or dish. Bake for approximately 3 1/2 hours, or until the chicken falls off the bone and shreds easily.
The ti and banana leaves are not edible, so remove before serving.
Shred two or three bundles of chicken for the appetizers. Reserve the remaining lau lau to reheat for an easy weeknight main course.
Turn up your oven to 400 F.
Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cut 2 large purple sweet potatoes into approximately 1/3-inch slices. Then cut the slices into rectangles.
Toss the rectangles (and the extra bits) in olive oil so every side is well coated. Sprinkle with sea salt, and toss to evenly coat. Arrange the potatoes on the baking sheets in a single layer.
Bake for about 10 minutes, turn the potatoes over, and continue to bake until fork tender.