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Traditional Tongan cooking and food: coconuts and the Umu von TravelVideoSource   8 years ago


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From the Global Village Travel Guide and DVD, "Islands of the South Pacific". Stock footage available from
One of the most universally recognized images
of the South Pacific is the coconut palm.
It's an excellent colonizer, capable of surviving
long periods of time floating along until chance
might have it bump into a patch of warm soil on which to root.

The coconut is an indispensable ingredient
in Polynesian life.
Its milk provides a nourishing beverage.
It is also dried into Copra for use in cooking oil and body oil.
The coconuts are even used by children as flotation devices!
But, most of all, it is the basis for almost every traditional dish in the
Polynesian diet.
Basic staple dishes include a concoction of Taro leaf,
which is much like spinach when cooked,
onion and corned beef.
This is wrapped in a banana leaf
and the coconut milk is added last.
for dessert the mixture might be papaya slices and coconut milk.
After wrapping, the bundles are placed in the
pre-heated Umu or underground oven along with Taro root or yams.
All families have Umus and they're used daily.
When it is full the Umu is covered with banana leaves and old mats
to keep in the heat.
Several hours later the bundles are removed from the Umu and
opened to reveal succulent, savory dishes.
For special occasions, a very large umu may be used to bake
an entire feast. The key to a successful umu is a tight seal
which allows the food to be simultaneously steamed, smoked,
baked, and bar-b-qued.
The traditional serving plate --
a slice from a banana tree trunk--
is as recyclable as the pot that cooked the dishes.
And, of course, the fingers can always be used again!