This is a classic Chamorro dish that is a staple on most fiesta menus.
The traditional dish is called Gollai Hågun Suni, made with taro leaves rather than spinach. I still remember watching my mom make this dish the traditional way. She’d use a machete to cut a huge stack of taro leaves growing in our back yard. After rinsing each leaf, mom would stack then roll them up, cigar-like, then cut the leaves into thin ribbons. Mom then placed the taro leaves into a large pot filled with some water, cooking them long and over low heat so that the leaves can cook down and tenderize before adding freshly pounded orange ginger or turmeric (we used a hammer back in the day to pulverize the ginger root), freshly squeezed coconut milk, the juice of lemons picked from mom’s tree, and diced hot peppers from the plants growing by the door to the outside kitchen.
In this day and age, convenience (and making necessary substitutions due to not having traditional ingredients readily available) dictates using spinach leaves rather than traditional taro in this recipe. I buy frozen spinach that’s cooked and chopped — it saves so much time. Just defrost and drain the spinach leaves, add the rest of the ingredients, heat, and serve! What normally takes several hours if prepared the old Chamorro way now takes minutes.
Give my recipe a try. It’s a great addition to your Chamorro fiesta menu. 🙂
Spinach with Coconut Milk
- 3 (10-oz.) packages frozen, cooked, and chopped spinach
- 3 cans coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons ground turmeric
- 2 teaspoons sea salt, more or less, to taste
- 2 teaspoons onion powder (you can use fresh onions, just saute them until the onions are softened)
- 2 teaspoons lemon powder (or use freshly squeezed lemon juice), more or less, to taste
- 1 teaspoon hot pepper paste or diced hot peppers, optional (add more or less, to taste)
1. Place the frozen spinach in a colander (then place the colander inside a larger bowl) to thaw the spinach and allow any water to drain. After the spinach is completely thawed, squeeze the spinach to get rid of as much water as you can. Place the fully drained/squeezed spinach into a medium-sized pot.
2. Add the coconut milk, turmeric, salt, onion powder, lemon powder, and hot pepper to the pot. Stir to combine the ingredients.
3. Cook the spinach over low heat, just until heated through. Do NOT bring the mixture to a boil or the coconut milk will start to separate.
4. Taste and add adjust the amount of salt, lemon power or juice, and hot pepper to your liking. Serve and ENJOY!