Making Simboro aka Community Lunch

Today (30/9), the trainees made lunch for the mamas. My conclusion is that we are slow tumas. We made chicken, including killing, plucking and cleaning the chicken, and simboro, a local dish involving island cabbage and manioc or banana starch pudding. The mamas would have had that whipped up in an hour, maybe two. Us trainees took three and a little more.
Let me take a moment to discuss my culinary experiences so far. The first thing I have to describe is laplap. It is a very native dish made by taking the starch of a root vegetable (or banana), mixing it with coconut milk and baking it in banana leaves. You grate the veggie of choice on the zesting side until you have a bowl full. Then you add coconut milk. I need a side bar on making coconut milk, so here it goes.
To make the coconut milk you go out in to the coconut grove and find a good dry coconut. When you pick it up, it should slosh on the inside. For a full laplap, you actually need between 6 and 10 dry coconuts. After you collect your coconuts, you bring them back to a sharpened stake. You husk the coconuts by repeatedly stabbing the coconut onto the stake and prying the husk off. Then you take your bushknife (machete) and use the back of it to crack open the coconut. For all the martial artists, think vibration techniques. You hold the coconut in your left hand and the bushknife in the your right, use the not bladed side to whack the equator of the coconut until it cracks, then keeping whacking it until it breaks in two. After you have your coconut open, you scratch the coconut. Basically, you grate out the inside. There is a nifty tool that makes that not a completely impossible task. Once you have the meat of the coconut in grated flakes in a bowl, you toss in some water, or the water from the coconut, whichever you prefer. There are two ways to milk the coconut, with bare hands or with the husk of the coconut. For the husk method, you take the fiber from the inside of the husk and pull it apart into a birds nest shape, for the hands you just pick up a handful. My mama cheats and uses a kerchief. You wring out the coconut so that the milk oozes out. That’s how you make coconut milk.
Now back to the laplap which will lead to simboro (I swear, this will come back to the original topic). Now that you have your grated manioc or yam or banana or taro and your coconut milk, you mix the two together until you have something about the same consistency as manicotti. (I miss cheese.) To make laplap, you dump all of this mush into carefully prepared banana leaves and spread it into a nice even layer. Then you fold the banana leaves over the top and tie it up with the stems from the leaves. (I’d need another side bar to discuss banana leaf preparation.) You bring your root vegetable, coconut milk and banana leaf package over to the fire you started an hour or two ago and covered in fist sized stones. Then you rake the stones flat and set the package on top and cover it with yet more hot stones. Cover the hot stones with more banana leaves and some wild taro leaves and bake your laplap for about an hour.
For simboro, you take the manicotti like concoction and spread a tablespoon at a time into leaves of island cabbage. Island cabbage is a little like spinach and a little like kale and mostly just a green leafy thing. It’s quite tasty. Then you roll the leaf around the goop to make a package the size of a stuffed grape leaf. You cover the bottom of a saucepan in the stems from the island cabbage to keep the sinboro from touching the bottom then you stack the saucepan full of the simboro. You cover that in coconut milk and put it over the fire for 15-30 minutes, depending on how hot the fire is.
That is how I spent my morning. We made simboro. I had nothing to do with the chicken. My mama told me that the simboro was good, so I assume we passed that test.

0 thoughts on “Making Simboro aka Community Lunch

  1. Considering that your problem with meat is it&#39;s gross… I was wondering how you did with slaughtering and plucking a chicken. Good thing you had nothing to do with it – I eat (organic) chicken and I think that would have put me off of it for good. <br />You also have my mouth watering. I want some simboro now.

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