This week’s country meets the ocean with two faces. On one side are her cliffs, razor sharp and formidable On the other are gentle slopes. The two are connected by a central spine of mountains. This is the Solomon Islands, a collection of islands to the northeast of Australia, just east of Papua New Guinea.
In this tropical land, many houses are built on stilts and about 80% of islanders live in the boondocks. The Pacific Ocean is as much a valued friend, relied on for nourishment in the form of fish, lobster, and crustaceans, as it is an inestimable danger in times of storm or tsunami.
Finding information about food on the islands required quite a bit of detective work, which ultimately led me to a fascinating collection of blogs created by volunteers visiting the islands. Of these, Stilettos in the Solomons gave the most helpful overviews (and had the most intriguing name).
Like much of the Pacific, crops are limited to what can grow along rugged mountains, not to mention they must be hardy enough to survive monsoons. Papaya trees seem to be commonplace, and, thus, so are Green Papaya Curries [Recipe], as is simply hacking up the fruit and enjoying it as mother nature intended, fresh off the tree.
Perhaps the most traditional staple is Cassava Pudding [Recipe], a savory treat made from grated cassava and sweet potato mixed with coconut milk. The thick mixture is wrapped in banana leaves, then baked under hot stones. Grated cassava might also be wrapped up in banana leaves with bits of corned beef, to make the snack called Kara.
Tuna is canned on the islands and shipped around the world. Locals particularly like it with chilies, whose unapologetic heat gives the fish a distinct Solomon flavor. A complete meal is made when the tuna is served with rice or noodles.
Thai food has a notable presence, as does food from Australia and New Zealand. Popular local cafes, like the Lime Lounge, offer such treats as Anzac Biscuits – made with rolled oats and shredded coconut – a treat that families and friends once sent to Australian troops stationed in the Solomon Islands.
Perhaps best of all is the traditional warrior’s welcome.
Worth it, if you ask me.
I looked up the date from this last photo. It was on a Monday.
Such a great way to start a Monday.