Monday Meal Review: Vanuatu

Last week someone asked me if I was going to cook with rocks because that’s how they cook in Vanuatu. It was a fair question and one that, about two years ago, would have gotten me all sweaty and stressed out.

I would have asked myself if I was treating the people of Vanuatu fairly by not  digging a pit in my back yard, scavenging large rocks from local hiking trails, then cooking the meal beneath our Oklahoma red dirt.

But now, three years and seven months into this Adventure, my answer comes without any regret.


Over the last years, this blog has helped me figure out who I am and what I am capable of.

Right now, I have at my disposition a standard stove/oven combo.  When the kitchen gets too hot, I have an old gas grill in the back yard. Once in a while we use my chimnea to roast marshmallows.

In Vanuatu, you work with what you have.  You celebrate what you have. And that’s no different here, in my little corner of middle America. I am here to cook the world in a way that makes sense for my family. Because, if I had to dig a pit to make my dinner, we’d probably not be cooking Vanuatu this week.

Would I like to do all that? You bet. But right now, I’m a mom, a wife, and an author working on her first book. It is an incredible honor and challenge.

Someone else recently asked me how I have time to cook the world.

To be honest, some days I’m not sure I do have the time.

But by putting one foot in front of the other, simplifying wherever possible, I’ve created a Global Table Adventure even the busiest family can undertake.

Including  yours.

Be sure to upload YOUR Global Table Adventure photos to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

Tell me about them and be sure to TAG the photos with #GlobalTable so I can see.

At the end of all this, I’d like to share some of your beautiful feasts here, on the blog.

I’d also like to know: what are your roadblocks to cooking the world? What stumbling blocks keeps you from trying new recipes?  Or are you cooking the world just fine? Let’s help and encourage each other.  Add your comments below.


Sweet Potato Simboro [Recipe]

What I loved most about this dish:

The sweet potato is so nice when simmered in coconut milk. The bitter leaves add a nice contrast and welcome dimension. Ava wasn’t sure, but, since sweet potatoes are her favorite root vegetable right now, she warmed up to the dish pretty well.

What I loved least about this dish:

Rolling the simboro proved to be rather difficult, but I learned from a reader’s comments to immerse the leaves in hot water for a minute before rolling. They’ll be much less likely to crack and break. I’m definitely trying this next time!

Green Papaya Salad [Recipe]

What I loved most about this dish:

By pulling together many popular ingredients from Vanuatu, we were able to taste the fresh flavors without actually getting on a plane. While this might not be found in the remote villages, something like this is definitely a coastal, city offering. Finding the pre-shredded papaya made my day, and ensures this one will go into the regular rotation!

What I loved least about this dish:

Not much! Just be sure to use plenty of salt and plenty of lime juice.


  1. My biggest stumbling block is finding the right ingredients. Where I live some international ingredients (mainly Thai, Japanese, Indian, and some Mexican ingredients that come in bottles, jars, packets, or boxes and don’t need refrigeration) are now a staple in most larger supermarkets (not available AT ALL outside of the capital city 6 years ago!), but I just can’t get some of the ingredients, especially fruit and veg, used in some world recipes (i.e. green papaya! I think I know where I could find one, but I would have to travel 2+ hours to get it 🙂 ). I’ve become quite good at substituting ingredients and adapting recipes to use what is readily available. The internet is a great place for finding answers for that! I think because of the ingredient challenge I’ve actually learned more about the cultures, the ingredients, the food, and preparation techniques because I’ve had to search out more information to help me adapt. It is an on-going adventure and education that I don’t think I’d appreciate as much if everything was easy to get.

    • Sasha Martin says

      I love how you found the silver lining in all this. It’s true that the more research we have to do about ingredients, the more we’re able to understand the culture. I’ve found very green papaya at Whole Foods before. While I think they expect you to wait for it to ripen, it would probably work in the salad. Maybe unripe mango, too. I also saw someone substitute cabbage for it, thought I think the experience would be vastly different.

      • I’ve used a combo of grated cucumber and carrot in Thai ‘green papaya’ salad and the salad is still pretty tasty. I’ve recently discovered some big round white radishes that show up at the supermarket and farmers markets sometimes. I bet they’d be great in this salad! The flavour isn’t too strong and they’d give more crunchiness than carrot and cucumber. Cabbage is a great idea too, although the flavour would be stronger.

          • I don’t think so. I think it’s a European variety. It doesn’t have a strong radish taste. It’s a little sweet and juicy. I did an image search for ’round white radish’ and some of the variety names that popped up that looked similar were ‘Ping Pong,’ ‘Burpee’ and ‘Whiterella.’ It appears that you can get seeds for them in the USA.

    • Janet Goodell says

      I have the same problem. Since no one but me will eat sweet potatoes or yams and I would never find green papayas, I was forced to improvise. I marinated ribs in pineapple and soy sauce. Served them barbequed with a tropical fruit salad. Also found very good deal on tropical trail mix. So we ate South Pacific, at least. I love my international meals every Sunday–am hooked.

  2. Great ending to the video…Hey there, Ava…the coconut and the papaya look so much alike, how do you tell the difference?
    Please let me know what her 4 year old answer is to this question. (no prompting)
    Thank you

  3. I’ve made your upside-down plantain cake and it was yummy! Have enjoyed seeing your beautiful creations and reading about them.

    My hindrance, other than a lack of “exotic” ingredients in rural Georgia, is my family of 3 other adults not wanting to try new things. There isn’t enough space in the fridge for me to cook for myself & have space for foods they like. I have a whole box of Indian staples that I’m thinking of blessing my neighbor with, since no one else is game to try it.

    • Sasha Martin says

      Oh, that’s hard! Have you tried some of the more friendly dishes? Use some of those spices in your rice next time. Just add a touch. They might not even notice if you don’t make a big thing about it! Another thought is to invite other people over for dinner parties that make it more of a game. I’m going to post this up on our Facebook fan page ( and see if anyone else has ideas for you.

      • I’m thinking of trying to start an international cooking group within the Newcomers Club I belong to, among those who enjoy cooking. Maybe we could eat lunches at each others’ homes. Thanks for the encouragement!

  4. annaclarice says

    The biggest problem for me (other than fresh ingredients) is that I am a single person living alone. And while I do entertain and have people over for dinner, I most often am cooking for one. It’s quite a challenge sometimes to cut recipes down to a manageable amount. I like leftovers but…my freezer fills up quickly when I cook for a crowd when there’s only me at home. 😀

    • Sasha Martin says

      Do you work in an office setting? You could bring leftovers to your coworkers… especially with desserts etc. That way you get a taste, but can also keep from overdoing it.

  5. My hardest challenge while cooking around the world (other than finding the ingredients (agh black eyed peas)) is underestimating how long the recipe will take me to make. We have had some late nights!

    • Sasha Martin says

      I’ve found black eyed peas at Whole Foods. You can also try stocking up around New Year’s – a can should keep you a while. Many dishes do take time or can be involved… that’s a great point. I like to do my global cooking on a day when I’m relatively free, so I can enjoy the experience at a relaxed pace. Then, once I’ve tried it, I might decide I can handle it on a week night another time.

  6. Marilyn says

    Can’t wait to try these Vinuatu recipes! My dad was in the Marines in WWII and spent time on Vinuatu. It is on my bucket list of places to visit. Now I’ll have a headstart on the cuisine. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.