What’s Cooking in Palau — fish and taro

By Sandra Scott
This item appears on page 61 of the November 2009 issue.
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by Sandra Scott

Ann Singeo explained the medicinal benefits of a sprouted coconut. Photos: Scott

“The taro plant is important to the Palauan people,” explained Ann Singeo, our guide and the owner of the ecotour company Sense of Wonder. “The legend of Palau is based on food. A simple version of the legend has it that a giant by the name of Uab was consuming all the food, so the rest of the people were starving. The villagers placed him on a fire and he exploded, creating the islands of Palau.”

In the Western Pacific, Palau is an amazing group of 700 islands and one of the most eco-friendly of all the locations my husband, John, and I have visited. This community of about 20,000 people has passed many laws to preserve the environment.

Before we set out on our kayak tour of the mangrove on the island of Babeldaub in March ’09, our other guide, Spis, picked a sprouting coconut off the ground and split it open. The white part had become spongy, and Ann suggested we slather it on our exposed body parts.

John Scott with the fish on a banana leaf ready to place on the charcoal broiler.

“It will keep away the mosquitoes and prevent sunburn,” she said.

Deep in the mangrove, we pulled our kayaks up on land and took a short hike, then Ann explained another Palauan legend: the taro goddess brought back samples from the taro patches she had created on the various islands.

Pointing to upright stones, Ann said that they were the taro plants planted by the goddess and which had turned to stone.

We were totally unfamiliar with taro. The taro patches are the exclusive domain of women probably because, to harvest the plants, they have to wade in deep mud, sometimes above their waists, so they often work nude.

The taro rosti ready to eat.

At the end of the tour, we enjoyed a lunch that Ann had prepared which included taro soup and taro salad.

The Rock Islands of Palau are a paradise for divers and snorkelers. John and I were dazzled by the brilliant blue starfish and the giant clams, but the most amazing experience was swimming in an isolated saltwater lake with thousands of jellyfish which were virtually stingless.

On our return from a snorkeling tour with Fish ’n Fins (PO Box 964, Koror, Palau 96940; phone 680 488 2637, www.fishnfins.com), the talk turned to food. Tova Harel, the owner of Fish ’n Fins, said if we returned for dinner, she and Cesar, her chef, would show us how to prepare fish and some taro recipes. It was an offer we could not refuse.

When we were in Palau, we loved the half-day tour and lunch ($75) with Sense of Wonder (e-mail annsingeo@yahoo.com). Our cooking experience of about an hour ($25) was an impromptu favor extended by Tova Harel but one she will provide for other visitors. She has authored a cookbook, “Taste of Rainbow’s End,” which is available by contacting her directly.

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

by Sandra Scott

Ann Singeo explained the medicinal benefits of a sprouted coconut. Photos: Scott

“The taro plant is important to the Palauan people,” explained Ann Singeo, our guide and the owner of the ecotour company Sense of Wonder. “The legend of Palau is based on food. A simple version of the legend has it that a giant by the name of Uab was consuming all the food, so the rest of the people were starving. The villagers placed him on a fire and he exploded, creating the islands of Palau.”

In the Western Pacific, Palau is an amazing group of 700 islands and one of the most eco-friendly of all the locations my husband, John, and I have visited. This community of about 20,000 people has passed many laws to preserve the environment.

Before we set out on our kayak tour of the mangrove on the island of Babeldaub in March ’09, our other guide, Spis, picked a sprouting coconut off the ground and split it open. The white part had become spongy, and Ann suggested we slather it on our exposed body parts.

John Scott with the fish on a banana leaf ready to place on the charcoal broiler.

“It will keep away the mosquitoes and prevent sunburn,” she said.

Deep in the mangrove, we pulled our kayaks up on land and took a short hike, then Ann explained another Palauan legend: the taro goddess brought back samples from the taro patches she had created on the various islands.

Pointing to upright stones, Ann said that they were the taro plants planted by the goddess and which had turned to stone.

We were totally unfamiliar with taro. The taro patches are the exclusive domain of women probably because, to harvest the plants, they have to wade in deep mud, sometimes above their waists, so they often work nude.

The taro rosti ready to eat.

At the end of the tour, we enjoyed a lunch that Ann had prepared which included taro soup and taro salad.

The Rock Islands of Palau are a paradise for divers and snorkelers. John and I were dazzled by the brilliant blue starfish and the giant clams, but the most amazing experience was swimming in an isolated saltwater lake with thousands of jellyfish which were virtually stingless.

On our return from a snorkeling tour with Fish ’n Fins (PO Box 964, Koror, Palau 96940; phone 680 488 2637, www.fishnfins.com), the talk turned to food. Tova Harel, the owner of Fish ’n Fins, said if we returned for dinner, she and Cesar, her chef, would show us how to prepare fish and some taro recipes. It was an offer we could not refuse.

When we were in Palau, we loved the half-day tour and lunch ($75) with Sense of Wonder (e-mail annsingeo@yahoo.com). Our cooking experience of about an hour ($25) was an impromptu favor extended by Tova Harel but one she will provide for other visitors. She has authored a cookbook, “Taste of Rainbow’s End,” which is available by contacting her directly.