Thursday, January 7, 2021

Papua New Guinea

 Next up - Papua New Guinea!  This country is a fascinating place with such well-preserved diversity - linguistically, ethnically, and in their flora and fauna.  We have watched a lot of nature documentaries so were vaguely familiar with some of the amazing species of birds that live there, but it was wonderful to be able to take a deeper dive and really get to know more about Papua New Guinea.

Our video list:

In researching for our meal, I found this really interesting survey of the people and cuisine of Papua New Guinea done by the Australian Government's Department:  Wikipedia also had some useful information:

I saw that mumu was a dish mentioned over and over again in the articles I read, with Wikipedia even calling it 'the national dish of Papua New Guinea.'  So I decided that is what we would make!  Mumu is more of a method and general style of dish than a specific recipe, so I pulled from several sites to put together my plan for making mumu at home:

  • Mumu - International Cuisine:
  • Papuan New Guinean Mumu - Coffee & Vanilla:
  • Mumu - The Fair Trade Cook Book:
Luckily, our local grocery store is fairly well-stocked in a wide variety of items, so I was able to get plantains, taro root, a pineapple, bunches of spinach, and a banana leaf in my normal grocery run, along with a cut of pork belly.

I decided to go the route of using a foil-lined roaster pan that was then layered as follows: banana leaf, greens (spinach), root vegetables chopped and peeled (taro root, plantain, homegrown sweet potato/yam), chunks of pork belly, cubed fresh pineapple, greens (the rest of the spinach), and banana leaf.  For spices, I liberally sprinkled each layer (except for the pineapple) with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  I also sprinkled curry powder on the pork layer and then drizzled coconut milk over the pineapple layer. 

Once the final banana leaf layer was placed on, I sealed everything in aluminum foil and then baked at 400 degrees for over an hour, checking once after 45 minutes.

Once finished, it looked a lot like the pictures in the online recipes, so I felt pretty good about the execution.  We had everyone try a little bit of every ingredient in the mumu so they would get the full experience, and overall it went pretty well.  The pineapple flavor didn't overpower everything the way we thought it might, but the plantain flavor was new and did give everything a taste of unfamiliarity that took the kids a little bit of getting used to.  The least favorite part was the cooked spinach - no surprise there.  Overall, everyone did pretty well with it and we cleared at least two-thirds of this dish at dinner.

For dessert, I bought tapioca pudding cups, as I thought that would be the closest thing to Saksak I could get locally.  I was not much of a fan of tapioca as a kid, but it isn't too bad and the kids enjoyed it.

I'll leave you with a clip of the nature documentary series Our Planet that we watched on Netflix - the birds of paradise of the island of New Guinea:

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