Kiribati’s cuisine is primarily based on seafood, coconut, breadfruit, and rice. Therefore, when came to finding a traditional dessert from this Pacific island nation I wasn’t expecting to find anything. My initial search brought up a recipe for a dessert called buatoro, written by a Spanish food blogger. It seemed authentic but I only bake desserts if I have a source from that country. Stubborn as that may sound.
Next my search for an authentic recipe took me was to an extract of A Pattern of Islands, Sir Arthur Grimble’s memoir of his time in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands (Gilbert Islands are Kiribati’s former name) between 1914 – 1933. It describes buatoro as a “complicated pudding of babai and coconut”. Further searches uncovered a recipe with spam and pumpkin, not the coconut and babai (taro) based pudding I was expecting. Scrolling through the comments I found what I was looking for, I-Kiribati sharing their recipes for a dessert with those exact ingredients.
I don’t know about you, but when someone from Kiribati comments on your post to tell you that your recipe isn’t buatoro and kindly gives you the correct recipe you do something about it, right? You don’t thank them and leave your recipe up, continuing to tout it as an authentic recipe for other bloggers to share. Even if you are the expert of the cuisine of all 196 countries. It’s disrespectful to that nation and its people.
There are two unique ingredients in buratoro, babai and kamaimai. Babai is swamp taro, if you don’t live in Oceania you’ll have a hard time finding it. The best alternative is taro, which you can find in the frozen section of Asian supermarkets. If you can’t find taro, you can use pumpkin, sweet potato, plantain, or even rice. Kamaimai is also known as coconut blossom syrup which is readily available in health food shops.
The recipe calls for finely grated taro but if you don’t fancy grating the taro you can always steam or boil it, then mash it. I got carried away with my grating. I didn’t feel very well and the grating was quite cathartic. Before I knew it, I had grated the entire 1kg bag! So you may wish to reduce the amounts in the recipe below.
To all the I-Kiribati who commented on those other recipes, this recipe is credited to you. I hope I’ve done you and buatoro justice.
- 1kg finely grated uncooked taro
- 400ml can of coconut milk
- 150g coconut blossom syrup or melted coconut sugar
- Enough flour to hold it together, I used about 80 – 100g
- Banana leaves or foil – banana leaves, like taro, can be found in the frozen section of Asian supermarkets – plus string to tie up the leaves.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC, 160ºC fan, gas 4, or 350ºF.
- Mix all the ingredients together, adding enough flour to give you a pancake batter-like consistency.
- Line a baking dish with the banana leaves or foil. Pour the batter into the banana leaves and wrap, securing it with string. Alternatively, you can lightly grease the baking dish and pour the batter direct into this.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes. Check with a skewer if the buatoro is cooked in the middle. If the skewer doesn’t come out clean, pop it back in for 5-10 more minutes.
- Leave the buatoro to cool before eating.