All posts filed under: Oceania

We are one family

Monday Meal Review: Samoa

There’s a Samoan proverb which reads “Ua iloa i vaʻa lelea,” or we are one family.  I love this proverb. I spent most of my topsy turvy childhood figuring out what love means. What family means. And then, one day, those grace-filled words dawned on me … We are one family. The Samoans knew it all along. Blood bonds and geographic bonds are just the wonderful beginning. We can find love whenever and wherever we open our hearts. We are all one family. Sometimes it’s a bit messy. Sometimes it’s not how we pictured it. Sometimes we disagree and sometimes we cry. Sometimes we need a break. But sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes we laugh and see eye to eye. Sometimes we can’t get enough of each other’s smiles. We are one family. How my life changed when I began to look at the world through this lens. Sure, I still mess up (all the time, actually… and I’m sorry for that), but reminding myself of these words helps me to slow down and “think kinder,” with more love, …

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Samoan Steamed Spice Cake | Puligi

When Samoans want to bite into the holidays, their kitchens fill with the warm scent of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. If you try to peer under the lid to see what’s cookin’, you’ll more than likely get a full steam facial, so watch out. Within that foggy cloud of vapors, you’ll find cocoa brown puligi, a steamed bundt cake made dark with the unusual addition of “burnt” sugar. The cake is traditionally steamed in an underground oven known as an imu, although many now steam it on the stovetop, or as I have done in the oven. We ate this treat one early morning, as part of a Samoan Saturday breakfast which included our Koko Rice (a.k.a. chocolate and coconut rice pudding). I was so bleary-eyed from my too-early wake up (thanks to my ever-eager Miss Ava) that I completely forgot to serve it with the traditional accompaniment – vanilla custard – and instead passed around some softened butter. It was only days later that I remembered what I’d read, cut myself a new slice, …

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Chocolate & Coconut Rice Pudding with Sweet Orange Peel | Koko Rice

I used to say I wasn’t a chocolate girl but, as the year’s go by, I’m realizing that it’s really more about finding the right time to eat chocolate. After dinner? Certainly. At 3pm? I’m game. For lunch? Maybe. Midnight? Definitely. 3 am? No way. I’m sleeping for goodness sakes. But breakfast? Am I game for a chocolate breakfast? Let’s just say it’s an arrangement I’m willing to get out of bed for and I know of at least two other people who are as well. After all, who couldn’t use a jolt of dark chocolate goodness to start the day out right? Which brings us to today’s Koko Rice from Samoa. I originally dubbed it “choconut” because I thought I was clever. Unfortunately, Google quickly informed me that I had not, in fact, invented a word so I had to go back to the much simpler, but wordier expression “chocolate and coconut.” Whatever you decide to call it, koko rice is a rich and creamy blend of chocolate and coconut milk with just the lightest hint of orange zest. Each …

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Samoan Coconut Creamed “Spinach” | Palusami

Oh, boy. I honestly never thought this would happen. Me. Canned meat. Together at the table. At the Global Table. When I decided to cook a meal for every country in the world, I had visions of exotic spices laced throughout grand feasts of epic proportions. I imagined a variety of fresh herbs, carefully plucked from a garden somewhere. Canned corned beef, never really popped up in these daydreams. But, when Soraya the Samoan suggested I try Palusami, I quickly learned the time had come to eat canned shaped meat. I sidestepped this challenge for as long as I could but throughout Polynesia, canned corned beef is a fact. A much loved staple. I could have cooked it for Fiji, or Nauru, or Kiribati, or Palau, and on and on. But I didn’t. Some of you even egged me on. But I just couldn’t face it. Until now. Until Samoa. Today we finally cracked open a can for their version of creamed spinach called Palusami. Coconut creamed spinach. The irony is, of course, that the recipe is just …

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Menu: Samoa (Plus Giveaway)

“E tuai tuai, ta te maʻona ai.” This Samoan proverb states that food which takes a long time in the oven will be satisfying. It’s the equivalent of “good things come to those who wait.” You see, much of Samoan dinners were traditionally cooked in underground ovens made with hot stones and covered with dirt and leaves. My mom said that was just about all there was in the late 70’s. Today, electricity takes much of the guesswork out of when dinner will be done but there’s still satisfaction in enjoying traditional favorites. For our menu, I went with yet another festive holiday spread. Bring that Palusami to your next holiday potluck. As for the rice and the puligi? Yes, yes. Definitely. Special thanks to Soraya, a lovely Samoan friend of Brian (longtime reader who always leaves the neat musical selections). She was kind enough to message with me about all kinds of good, traditional eats (especially the Palusami). All recipes and meal review will be posted throughout the week. Coconut Creamed “Spinach” | Palusami …

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About the food of samoa

Mom was the ultimate “drop everything and go” traveler at a time when not many people, let alone pregnant women, did that sort of thing. She was in Samoa in 1979 – just months before I was born. P.S. In case that wasn’t tough enough for ya, she also had a (very energetic) toddler in tow – my brother Damien. Amaz. ing. I know, I know, I know. You’re thinking things have changed since then – and to some extent they have (although much is still the same, like the fact that this tiny Polynesian nation is made up of a few islands totaling just over 1,000 square miles ). But I had to get her report of the place and what I heard was too good not to share. Here’s just an excerpt of her letter dated April 16, 1979 (just 3 months and 2 days before I was born), where she talks about the singing, the food, and the children. For starters her “condition” as a single mom just about to pop raised many questions. “Where’s your …

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Asaro Mud Man. Photo by Jialiang Gao.

Monday Meal Review: Papua New Guinea

I hover over the dining table, scooping the tapioca and banana mush onto banana leaves to make saksak. The deep green leaves are soft and supple – completely relaxed from a pass over the licking blue flames on my range. I work slowly, eventually rolling each leaf into a rectangle shape, taking care not to spill any filling. I tuck each bundle securely in the steamer and, when I’m done, I click on the burner. A few moments later, vapors slip out between the pot lid and the pot. Little wisps of banana scented air. The house smells beautiful. Real life: later that night no one would eat these little rectangles of chewy, slippery banana tapioca dumplings. No. One. I had retreated to work on my speech for the Tulsa Global Alliance’s Global Vision Dinner (350 attendees – eek!) and left them to eat this Global Table alone. When I check the fridge the next morning, the little green packets are still there. Forlorn. With shifty eyes, Keith claims he didn’t see them. Later, I …

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Spicy Coconut Shrimp

Fact: Shrimp are like relationships. They should be warm and inviting. Not cold and clammy. I’ve never been a fan of cold shrimp at cocktail parties. I eat them begrudgingly (if only because I’m an eternal grazer). All the while, I daydream of a crackling, crusty, and “fried-until-golden-brown” shrimp. I’m not sure why I settle on cold and clammy at cocktail parties, but I do it every single time. Thankfully, I didn’t make the same mistake when choosing my husband. And, after this week’s Global Table, I may never do it again with shrimp. While you won’t find Coconut Shrimp in the remote villages of Papua New Guinea, you will find it in the country’s coastal restaurants. In fact shrimp would be the dainty option; often they’ll use humongous prawns and serve spicy chili sauce on the side for dipping. To give the shrimp authentic spice without sauce I added a sprinkle of brilliant cayenne… a spice the color of a Papua New Guinean sunset and a fishermen’s dream. Ingredients: 1 lb shrimp, peeled & deveined, tails on 1/3 cup …

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Tapioca & Banana Dumplings in Coconut Milk | Saksak

I don’t make a lot of really, really weird things on this blog. You won’t see deep-fried tarantulas or monkey brains. This is because I feel strongly that regular people (and by that I mean regular-really-special-all-kinds-of-wonderful  people like you), living in average towns (that they love with all their heart, like you do) should be able to replicate this adventure without pulling their hair out by the roots. Simply put: the more people cooking the world, the better. And I’m here to make it as easy as possible. That being said, sometimes I run across really strange recipes made with really normal ingredients. These are like culinary goldmines for the stovetop traveler. Unique learning experiences that are not an impossible nightmare to cobble together. Fun, fun, fun. Take today’s recipe from Papua New Guinea: Saksak, a.k.a. Sago Dumplings. This slippery treat is made with nothing more than tapioca, bananas and sugar, wrapped up in a banana leaf “blanket” and swimming in a warm coconut sea. I found everything for the Saksak in our grocery store except for the banana leaves. …

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Autumnal Veggies in Spiced Coconut Milk

“I would eat that” says Mr. Picky, after taking a nibble off of my wooden spoon. I take a bite off the same spoon and let my eyes flutter shut. My mouth is filled with the most comforting, savory goodness. These coconut veggies taste exactly like a delicious hug on a rainy day… or a steaming hot shower after a rough and tumble game of basketball… or that happy dream you have after finishing a really, really great book (or show) – the kind of dream that lets the world of the characters continue on in your imagination. Good stuff. There’s nothing so softly seductive as sweet potatoes, butternut squash, potato, and green beans, simmered in creamy coconut milk with a touch of ginger and garlic. This is the quintessential Papua New Guinean meal – one you’ll often see ladled over white, somewhat mushy rice. Why mushy? Well, according to Caroline Leigh who has been to Papua New Guinea, rice cooked in thin aluminum pots is always mushy. Since  almost all pots in Papua New Guinea …

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Menu: Papua New Guinea (& Giveaway)

“How can a country of 800 plus languages and 700 plus ethnic groups unite to form a country, impossible but possible for PNG” – Sir Michael Somare, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea. (Source) Sir Michael Somare has a great point. How exactly does a group of people so diverse remain unified as a country? From what I’ve read, PNG’s success has a great deal to do with the freedom it allows these  700 ethnic groups to express themselves, whether by wearing unique clothing, performing culture-specific rituals, or enjoying local music. PNG makes room for it all. That being said, the peoples are surely united by one food in particular:  the coconut. Every single dish on this week’s Global Table celebrates coconut for one simple reason – PNG loves the coconut. In my research I found it shows up in almost every recipe. (Update: turns out Brian S.’s trip to the interior of PNG did not feature the coconut, so perhaps this is just a coastal thing). Considering I can’t get my family to agree …

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As a fisherman waits patiently for the fish to bite, Tavurvur belches ash and pumice into the twilight. Photo by Taro Taylor.

About the food of Papua New Guinea

Few sentences succeed at stopping me in my tracks, however last night’s research on Papua New Guinea made me blush and chuckle. I can’t help but share the line that made me react so strongly, as it sums up the culture more succinctly than three pages worth of blabber I could offer: A young bare-breasted woman recently bought as a bride for five pigs may be wearing a digital wristwatch. (1000 Places to See Before You Die) Knock that image around your brain a while. As far as mental images go, the digital wristwatch really is the cherry on top – a snapshot of a bygone era in American style, circa 1980, which is now firmly lodged in the “outdated” category this side of the Pacific.  I love every bit of it. As for the pigs – yes, they are so valuable that many tribes use them as currency. The book goes on to describe several regions of Papua New Guinea celebrated for even more dramatic isolation. So untouched by modern influence, these communities remain submerged …

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