I’ve been told so many times about the deliciousness of the Niuean takihi and that it is a crime that I hadn’t tried it already – ekkk! So naturally, I messaged my Niuean faves and asked them if they could demonstrate how to cook Niuean Takihi. In true Pacific people style, as soon as word got out that there was takihi at my place this demonstration day turned into a feast with nine adults and seven children.
Today our guest cook is Yetta Simi whose family migrated to New Zealand from Niue many moons ago. As far as she knows this is a dish that is unique to Niue, like mainese in the Cook Islands and ahi poke in Hawaii. When you hear takihi, Niue comes to mind straight away.
As a young girl, aged around 4 years old, living in Niue, Yetta remembers watching her parents pulling at the taro – rooted deep in the soil – with a long, hooked stick, then plucking sweet, ripe, yellow pawpaw off tall trees and collecting brown coconuts to husk and grate to make freshly squeezed coconut cream.
All of these were harvested from their family plantation. Once prepped and assembled, the takihi went into an umu (underground oven) to be cooked the traditional way. In those days, Niuean takihi was saved for special occasions and was a treat that Yetta’s family looked forward to.
Here’s how to make Yetta’s perfect Niuean Takihi.
This recipe is enough for 15 Pacific-people portions.
- 3 large white taro
- 6 ripe pawpaw
- 2 large orange kumara to use in case you run out of pawpaw. Pawpaw is expensive in New Zealand
- 1.5 litres rich coconut cream. Since we're not in Niue we used Kara for its thick, rich, creaminess.
- tapioca flour
- large baking tray
- large roasting oven bags weird I know but wait for it
Preheat your oven to fan bake at 180 degrees celsius.
Peel off the skins from the taro, pawpaw and kumara, then slice thinly (approximately 50mm thick).
Prepare your baking tray by lining it with foil. Cut open the roasting oven bags and continue lining the tray placing them on top of the foil. You will want some of the oven bag lining to hang over the sides of the oven tray to fold over the mountain of assembled Takihi.
Assembling the dish
It's the layering time. With the first layer, make sure that the bottom of the oven tray is completely covered. The layering is in this order - taro, pawpaw, salt, tapioca lastly coconut cream. Continue the layers until all the ingredients are used up, or until the tray is full If you run out of pawpaw, use the kumara as the substitute.
Cover the assembled Niuean Takihi with the overhanging oven bag liner and foil, then cover the entire top with 2 layers of extra foil.
Place it in your oven to cook for at least 90 min and let the sweet aroma fill your home.
Once cooked, pull it out of the oven and let it cool for at least 30 min - 1 hour before cutting to serve.
And we're done!!!
Your home is now filled with the sweet aroma of Niuean Takihi and you probably have at least two extra families visiting unexpectedly because somehow they heard through the coconut wireless network that Takihi was on your table lol.
Yetta's Niuean Takihi tips: - Lining the oven tray with foil and oven bags will help keep the shape, helps evenly cook the takihi and keeps it moist, and reduces the elbow work in cleaning the oven tray. - Slightly brown on the bottom indicates your Takihi is perfectly cooked. - Is best served with Niuean raw fish - This tip is probably the most valuable - prepare the Takihi love, care, laughter and fun with your family and friends. I can assure you that you will enjoy each bite and taste the love and joy that created it. This is the real secret to Yetta's perfect Niuean Takihi
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