There are a few countries on our planet where it is difficult to identify authentic local recipes, as those recipes are often found throughout the region. In the Solomon Islands, cassava pudding is a staple recipe, although different versions of it can be found throughout the Pacific islands and even as far as the Caribbean.
Pudding, as it is known in the Pacific, is not at all similar to the popular dessert found in the US, or even the sausage found in the United Kingdom. It is usually prepared with a vegetable or a root that is grated, then baked.
Taro pudding, as well as pumpkin pudding, can be found in the region. The other kind of popular pudding in the Solomon Islands is cassava pudding. This savory pudding is traditionally served with reef fish. Reef fish, unlike deep sea fish (tuna, snapper, barracuda), is baked whole.
Cassava pudding can take a while to prepare, between the grating and the baking. It is typically baked for hours in an outdoor oven called motu, under scorching hot stones and wrapped with banana leaves.
Although it is more often served as a side dish to fish, it is sometimes baked as a sweeter pudding, by adding brown sugar, butter, cinnamon or eggs.
Cassava is a plant that originated in South America. It is now a very important staple in many developing countries of Africa, as well as South and Central America, India, Southeast Asia and throughout the South Pacific islands. It is known under many names such as manioc, yucca, tapioca, manihot or esculenta. The edible parts of the cassava plant are the tubers as well as the leaves. Those tubers, which are part of the root, are the parts that are used for this cassava pudding. They are rich in carbohydrates, mainly starch and are a great source of energy.
Cassava is often used as flour in many cake recipes but it is also used in place of potatoes when fried in oil, to make chips, for example.
I initially baked this cassava pudding as a savory dish, even though we eventually didn’t eat it with fish. We added agave syrup for a sweeter version. And as you can see from the photos, I was probably a little too impatient to take the pictures, as I should have waited 1 or 2 hours for the pudding to firm up.
Cassava pudding was surprisingly good and I can’t wait to try it the authentic way, as a side to reef fish, surrounded by white sand under a palm tree!
- Peel and grate the cassava with a fine grater into a large bowl.
- Peel and grate the white sweet potato into the same bowl.
- Squeeze out the grated cassava and sweet potato mixture in a cheesecloth into a separate bowl. Set aside the liquid.
- Pour the liquid away. You will be left with the starch at the bottom of the bowl. Add the starch to the grated cassava and sweet potato. It will act as a thickening agent.
- Pour the coconut milk into the mixture, and mix thoroughly to obtain a texture similar to mashed potatoes.
- Preheat the oven to 375 F.
- Line an 11x9 inch baking dish with banana leaves. Pour the pudding mixture and flatten the surface with the back of a spoon.
- Fold the banana leaves over the cassava mixture to cover it. Add banana leaves if necessary.
- Bake for at least 2 hours.
- Set aside to cool for at least one hour so the pudding hardens.
- Cut squares and serve with grilled whole reef fish.