Rukau – A simple delight

Thursday 14 January 2021 | Written by Supplied | Published in Features, Food


Rukau – A simple delight
Rukau – A mix of cooked taro leaves and coconut cream. PHOTO:

A staple at many island tables, but it must be thoroughly cooked to eliminate the needle-like crystals of oxalate that can burn your throat.

Taro — also known as talo, dalo, dago, aba, angel, aro, taaro, ma — is an important staple food crop for Pacific Islanders and has been for thousands of years.

Although taro is increasingly being replaced by processed foods in people’s diets, it is still a prestigious root crop among Pacific Islanders and is used for many social and cultural ceremonies and obligations.

There are four taro species in the Pacific Islands. Colocasia esculenta, true taro, is the most widespread species. Originally imported from South-east Asia, about 70 different varieties have been documented, which differ in the colour of their corms and stalks, the stickiness of the corm and the shape of their leaves.

Taro is also grown widely in the Caribbean, Africa and Asia (China is the top exporter of taro).

The corm, stalk and leaves of taro are edible and as they are rich in fibre, vitamins (A, C, E) and minerals (calcium, iron), they can form an important part of a healthy diet.

The various parts of the taro must be thoroughly cooked to eliminate the needle-like crystals of oxalate that can burn your throat.

Rukau (rourou in Fiji) is a dish made out of taro leaves. Traditionally, the taro leaves and coconut cream were placed inside banana leaves and cooked in a umu (traditional oven made from a hole in the ground and hot stones) for several hours.

  • Pacific Community (SPC)

Rourou (Rukau)


(six servings)

1 bunch of young taro leaves (about 500 g)

500 ml of coconut cream

1 onion

Ginger, garlic, lemon juice, fresh red chilli

Salt and pepper


1. Wash the taro leaves and remove their stalks.

2. Put the coconut cream in a pot and bring it to a boil.

3. Cut the taro leaves in strips and cook them in the coconut cream for at least 30 minutes.

4. Once the leaves are cooked, mash them. Add diced onion, garlic, lemon juice, grated ginger and chilli.

5. Cook for a few more minutes and then serve as a hot or cold side-dish.