Muffins recipes

National dish of Vanuatu

flag of Vanuatu

  • Independence: 30. 7. 1980
  • Capital: Port Vila
  • Official language: Bislama, French, English
  • Population: 224 564
  • Area: 12 190 km2
  • International code: VU
  • Currency: Vanuatu vatu (VUV)
map of Vanuatu

Lap Lap

Ingredients Base:

  • 2 large squares banana leaf
  • 5 cups grated taro
  • 11/2 cups coconut milk
  • 2 cups cooked island cabbage, squeezed dry (substitute: spinach)
  • 4 small tomatoes, halved
  • salt and pepper

Ingredients Chicken:

  • 1 small whole chicken (about 1 kg) juice of 1 lemon or lime
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon chilli flakes or powder
  • sea salt 

Ingredients Coconut sauce:

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil (substitute: vegetable oil)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced ginger
  • 2 lime or lemon leaves (optional)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 2 chillies, whole
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped spring onions
  • salt and pepper
Lap Lap is national food (dish) of Vanuatu


Preheat the oven to 190°C. Soften two pieces of banana leaf in hot water. Lay one in an oiled casserole dish. Mix the grated taro with half a cup of the coconut milk. Spread the mixture evenly on the leaf to make a layer about 5 cm thick. Chop the island cabbage and place it in the center of the taro mix. Surround it with the halved tomatoes, cut side up. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle the remaining cup of coconut milk over the the whole. Cover with the second softened piece of banana leaf. Set the taro cake aside while you prepare the chicken. Rinse the chicken well and drizzle with the citrus juice. Place it in a mixing bowl with the oil and all of the spices. Coat well and transfer to a roasting pan. Roast the chicken and the taro cake at the same time for one hour. Baste the chicken with pan juices from time to time, and take the banana leaf cover off the taro cake for the last 20 minutes of cooking. Meanwhile, make the coconut sauce. Heat the coconut oil in a heavy pot with the garlic and ginger. Add the citrus leaves, if using, and cook a little more. Add the flour and cook for four or five minutes to make a light roux. Pour in the coconut milk, add the chillies and spring onion and whisk well. Simmer for a few minutes, stirring, to thicken slightly. Take the chicken and the taro cake from the oven. Let the chicken sit for a few minutes. Cut the chicken into serving-size pieces and place on the taro cake. Season the coconut sauce with salt and pepper and remove from the heat. Take your chicken lap lap to the table and drizzle with coconut sauce. Serve hot.


Vanuatu’s cuisine combines fish, root vegetables (taro, yams, sweet potatoes), and a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables. It is common for most families to grow vegetables and fruits in their gardens. Food is mainly cooked by boiling, steaming or by placing it amongst hot stones in an underground oven. Many dishes are flavoured with cream or coconut milk. Vanuatu’s national dish is a root vegetable cake called ‘laplap’. It is made from either manioc (cassava), sweet potato, yam or taro grated or shaved into a banana leaf with wild cabbage and coconut, wrapped into a flat parcel and cooked underground. Tourists can try it at market stalls for about VT100. Vanuatu is also renowned for its high quality beef. Combined with fresh seafood and the delicious fresh produce from the islands, Vanuatu is fast becoming a destination for gourmet diners. Port Vila in particular has a growing reputation as a very high quality dining centre, with dozens of restaurants offering a wide variety of cuisines. Meal prices range from VUV1000 to 2000. Many restaurants allow BYO wine or alcohol but will charge corkage of around VUV300. Check about bringing your own when booking a table, as this option works out considerably cheaper than purchasing alcohol at the restaurant. Kava is the national drink and Vanuatu’s kava is reputed to be the most potent in the Pacific. Made from the root of the kava plant, it is well known for its stress-relieving and anti-anxiety properties. It is an important part of many cultural ceremonies and is readily available throughout Vanuatu. A shell of kava should be swilled down in one motion because the taste is not altogether pleasant. Tourists are encouraged to try kava but are advised that more than 2 shells can leave them in such a relaxed state that they may not be keen (or capable) to continue their sight-seeing or travels for the rest of the day!

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