Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sauteed Taro Leaves with Ground Pork and Butterfish (serves 2-3 as part of a shared meal)

I cooked what I think is a really tasty dish and I can barely consume it. I am going to blog about it so that you do not make the same mistake that I did. This dish would have made a good meal if I had actually used taro leaves instead of the inedible elephant ear leaves. They both have heart shaped leaves except the taro leaf has the stem further in from the edge and the elephant ear has the stem on the edge. When I saw the leaves a brief thought entered my mind that these "taro leaves" looked a tad thick and off. I should have known it was too good to be true. I trusted that our friend who has been living on Maui for decades knew his taro well especially since it came from his own yard! He is a generous man and told me several times that I can harvest all of the leaves. I harvested them alright...washed each leaf carefully, removed the thicker veins, sliced them into strips and boiled them for a whole hour to get rid of the oxalic acid. If you eat raw or poorly prepared taro leaves you will immediate feel your mouth and tongue start to get this tingling prickling sensation which is similar to when I ate the initial few bites of this sauteed elephant ear with ground pork and butterfish. My immediate instinct was that after an hour of boiling the taro leaves, rinsing them and squeezing out the liquid were not enough. My next thought was that I cooked the wrong leaves! While surfing the web I came across Maui Jungalow, Taro vs. Elephant Ear (Telling Them Apart). It was not at all comforting to me knowing others have made the same terrible mistake. I hope this post will help prevent some of you from eating the wrong leaves!

When you use this recipe be sure to use TARO leaves! Eating the elephant ear probably will not kill you (since I am still alive to write this) but the sensation is quite unpleasant and can last for several hours. Long enough for me to consider the consequences and not repeat it in the future!

taro leaves
Not only did I cook the wrong leaf, but for this dish I also used a new type of fish that was not what it appeared to be. Butterfish or white tuna has been dubbed as an "ex-lax fish" by some people if one consumes more than a 6 ounce portion. The wax ester content from the fish can cause mild to severe gastrointestinal distress ranging from nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps to explosive diarrhea. There are quite a few on-line stories on this fish under the name escolar. Escolar is banned in Italy and Japan.

Sauteed Taro Leaves with Ground Pork and Hawaiian Butterfish (serves 2)


1 Tbsp oil
1 thumb nail size turmeric, minced or grated
1 thumb nail size ginger, minced or grated
3 garlic cloves, minced or grated
1/2 medium Maui onion, chopped
About 0.45 lb ground pork (about 1 cup)
15 taro leaves, large veins removed, sliced into strips, boiled in water for an hour, strained, rinsed, and squeezed out the liquid
About 1 cup coconut milk
1 chicken bouillon
About 0.70 lb wild Hawaiian butterfish, cut into 2-inch cubes
About 1 tsp fish sauce
About 1/4 t sugar


1) Heat oil over medium high heat in a wok or large pan. Once the wok/pan is hot add turmeric, ginger, garlic, and onion. Saute about 5 minutes or until the onion is soft.
2) Add pork and cook until the pork is partially cooked, about 2-3 minutes.
3) Add the cooked taro leaves. Spread the leaves out evenly on the wok/pan. Cook about 2 minutes.
4) Add coconut milk and bouillon, saute about 2 minutes.
5) Put the fish on the bottom of the wok/pan and cover with the leaves to help cook the fish. Cook until fish is cooked (about 5 minutes).
6) Season with fish sauce and sugar. Remove from heat.

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