Chicken lap lap

Chicken lap lap

My Feast
Chris Chen

The 24-hour market in Port Villa, Vanuatu, is an amazing place. The variety and diversity of the food available is astounding – from any type of root vegetable to huge piles of mangoes and all of the tropical fruits in season. You don’t have to go far around the market to find live coconut crabs, land crabs and all sorts of live shellfish. Throughout the market an aroma gently wafts its way to your nostrils. It eventually grabs you and draws you into the centre of the market where two rows of colourfully-dressed ladies sell this local speciality. Chicken Lap Lap: starchy, filling, slightly smoky and incredibly tasty. It can be made with any starchy vegetable or fruit, such as cassava, banana, sweet potato or taro, or a combination of all. My favourite is sweet potato and green banana. You can also make the filling using pork or seafood instead of chicken.


Quantity Ingredient
5 large banana leaves, centre spines removed
2 green bananas, grated
3 large sweet potatoes, grated
1 wombok, leaves washed and roughly chopped
1 bunch english spinach, roots trimmed, leaves washed and roughly chopped
salt and ground black pepper
1 x 1.4kg free-range chicken, butterflied
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
500ml coconut milk
1 onion, finely chopped
garlic, minced
1/2 bunch spring onions, sliced, (green parts only)


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C
  2. Run the banana leaves over an open flame for 30 seconds to soften. Overlap the leaves on a large baking tray to make the base for a parcel.
  3. Mix the grated bananas and sweet potato together in a bowl. Mix the chopped wombok and spinach together in a separate bowl. Season both mixtures with salt and pepper.
  4. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
  5. Heat the oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over high heat. When the oil has just started to smoke, add the chicken, skin side down. Cook for 2–3 minutes, until golden. Turn the chicken over to brown the other side.
  6. To assemble, place half of the wombok and spinach mixture into the centre of the banana leaves. Spread the mixture out enough to fit the chicken on top, but leaving enough of the banana leaf to fold around the filling to make a parcel. Top with the sweet potato and banana mixture and then the chicken, skin side up. Cover with the remaining wombok and spinach. Mix half of the coconut milk with the garlic and onion, then pour over the filling. Wrap the banana leaves around the chicken, making sure no filling can escape.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour, or until the chicken is cooked through.
  8. Remove from the oven, open the banana leaves and pour the remaining coconut milk on top. Garnish with the spring onion before serving.
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