Faiai Eleni is a savory coconut fish stew that we first enjoyed when we were on our honeymoon in Hawaii, at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie. We participated in an AirBnB experience called "Prepare Polynesian food in a Fire Pit" and although sadly I don't see it offered on AirBnB any more, I'm sure there are other ways to participate in it on the island or as part of the Cultural Center's offerings! It was a very special experience and I am glad we were able to try authentic Polynesian cuisine.
We learned all about how the Samoans would cook using the different parts of the coconut tree, how to weave a basket, how to prepare chicken for the fire pit, making taro leaves with coconut cream (palusami), preparing breadfruit, and more! We then enjoyed a meal together afterwards with what we made. This dish was an immediate favorite of ours and I immediately asked our host how to make it since it wasn't one of the dishes we made together as a group (it was prepared already and appeared alongside the rest of the food we made).
Faiai Eleni is a coconut cream fish stew that is baked and typically uses mackerel, onion, taro leaves or spinach, and cooked in coconut cream and some mayo. It is so creamy and delicious and goes so well with rice!
This dish is great for a quick weekday meal or when you're looking for a comforting dish to eat with rice. It comes together relatively quickly, and for the most part you are throwing everything together into one pot. Once all the ingredients are cooked and well incorporated in your pan, you can either serve as is, or you can place into an oven safe casserole dish and bake for about 25 minutes. This allows the flavors to truly marry in the oven! The process of baking is similar to how the dish would normally be cooked in an earth oven under hot volcanic stones called an umu.
It's not a "pretty" dish per se, but it is certainly delicious! Plus, it includes plenty of veggies with the onion and spinach, and healthy fats from the coconut milk base.
I always make enough so that my hubby can take it to lunch the next day, and he's always excited for it! You can either do plain white rice or you can flavor your rice with garlic, ginger and coconut oil to make it even more fragrant.
Coconut Tuna & Spinach Faiai Eleni
Until next time,
Just a gal who loves to eat and cook ❤