Summary: Melissa recreated her mother's tuluk recipe in the Chicago suburbs with great results!
Author: FOV2 member Melissa RPCV '17-'20
About midway through my service in Vanuatu, I learned from friends in the village that tuluk was claimed by the Efate region as "their" aelan kakae. Some volunteers hadn't eaten it on their islands, or had only tried it in Port Vila. Serving on Nguna, my host mama Mikale often made it for fundraisers or community events. On my regular route from Port Vila to Emua wharf, I could find tuluk at any one of the roadside market stands for a reasonable 100vt.
If you're unfamiliar, tuluk is like a portable, meat-filled laplap, or a "tamale with cassava instead of corn" as I described to my American friends. For the virtual Peace Corps gathering in August 2020, I decided it would be the perfect time to attempt to replicate my mama's recipe on American soil.
To keep it as close as possible to my host mama's recipe, I only used soy sauce and green onions, but you can add other sauces or flavors as you wish!
I live in the Chicago suburbs, where it's easy to find Latin American produce (and therefore, Vanuatu produce, as the crops are similar). If you can't find these items in your usual grocery store, I would recommend seeking out a Latin American market in your area. Banana leaves can be found in the frozen section (I found a Goya brand one at my local supermarket).
Regarding quantities, I eyeballed most of it. Look at the cassava root and it should be about the size of one medium potato per serving. For the pork, you'll use about a 1/4 to 1/3 lb per serving.
- cassava root (also known as yuca or manioc)
- pork butt or shoulder
- soy sauce
- green onions
- frozen banana leaves, thawed to room temperature (or fresh, if you can find them!)
- salt and pepper to taste
- First you'll need to cook the pork. Slow and low is the best way to make it nice and tender, so I opted to cook it in a slow cooker. I placed the pork butt into the cooker, added a good amount of soy sauce and green onions, then replaced the lid and cooked it on low for about 6 hours.
- Once the pork is cooked completely, taste it and add more seasoning if necessary. Let it cool enough so it's easy to handle with your hands.
- Peel the manioc by chopping off the ends, leaving a log. Then, use a knife to cut a slit down the side, and use your fingers to peel off the skin. It should be removed easily, but if not, use a paring knife.
- Preheat your oven or grill to 250*F.
- Using a cheese grater, rasras (grate) your manioc completely to create a pulp.
- Open up a banana leaf and spread it on the counter. I cut my leaves in half, as they are quite large.
- Using clean hands, take about a fist-sized amount of manioc pulp and place it in the center of the leaf. Use your fingers to flatten it into a rectangle and make a small dugout middle, without removing too much. You don't want to see the leaf underneath.
- Using clean hands, pinch a healthy amount of seasoned pork into the middle of your manioc "bowl."
- Using your fingers, mould the sides of the manioc "bowl" up and over the pork so you cover it completely. You can add more manioc if necessary. You want to cover the meat on all sides completely, but you also want to ensure there is a small ratio of manioc to meat, about 2:1.
- Use your hands to form the tuluk into a rectangle shape.
- Take the edges of the banana leaf and wrap it, covering it completely. It's ok if the leaf tears a little bit. If there are large holes, you can use ripped up banana leaf to cover them up as you wrap the tuluk.
- Roll the tuluk over so the open side is on the bottom, therefore keeping it sealed.
- Repeat until you have used all the manioc and/or meat.
- If cooking in an oven, place your wrapped tuluk on the top rack. If cooking on a grill, place on indirect heat so they don't burn. Ensure the grill remains closed for the duration of the cooking time, so heat does not escape.
- Cook the tuluk for about 45-60 minutes, or until cooked thoroughly. As it cooks, the manioc will become opaque and hard, similar to the texture of laplap.
- Remove the tuluk from the oven/grill and serve immediately. To eat, remove the banana leaf and eat with your hands!