Finally gave in.
I didn't want to make anything that required lautalo (taro leaves) because I can't get those where I live. And I wanted to be as true-blue-baby-I-love-you to Samoan food. When email requests came in for palusami, taro leaves baked with coconut milk, I faithfully replied "No can do. Cannot source genuine ingredients. Over and out."
But there comes a time - a 'defining moment' in Oprah-ese - when you just have to face facts: sometimes you have to substitute.
When koko samoa is unavailable, you use cocoa powder; when coconuts don't grow in your back yard, reach for a can; when you can't afford butter, mash an avocado; when you got no candy, chew on some sugar cane...I could go on.
So I've used spinach in place of lautalo. Actually, spinach is not a bad substitute for taro leaves. It's just not as good as the original. Once you've had the real deal, it gives you a food memory that is hard to overwrite.
The following recipe makes a quick, satisfying dinner and I haven't met a single person on earth who doesn't like it.
1 pound (450 gr) chicken (dark meat)
1 can (400 ml) coconut milk
1 medium onion
1-2 teaspoons salt
1 pound (450 gr) cooked drained spinach OR
1 pound (450 gr) of uncooked young taro leaves
If using spinach: Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Put in a medium saucepan with the coconut milk. Chop the onion and add to the saucepan. Add salt and stir to mix. Bring to the boil then turn down, simmering until the chicken is cooked. Add the spinach and bring to the boil once more, then turn off the heat.
If using taro leaves: Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Put in a medium saucepan with the coconut milk. Chop the onion and add to the saucepan. Add salt and taro leaves stir to mix. Bring to the boil then turn down, simmering gently until the chicken is cooked.
Serve hot with taro, green bananas, breadfruit or rice.