In the Ha'apai Group of Tongan islands we were repeatedly asked if we had enough Tongan food. By this, the asker meant items such as cassava, limes, coconut, cassava leaves, taro leaves, canned corned beef, papaya. When invited to the umu at Lucy's house on Ha'afeva, we had a combination of all of those items. Here is the menu, apart from the lime drink, all items were cooked in coals in the buried half of a rusty 50 gallon drum.
Lu is a dish in which any type of meat is mixed with coconut cream wrapped in many taro leaves, and then baked in an underground oven. We have eaten canned corned beef (very common), salted fish, chicken, and sorme sort of gristley pork all prepared this way.
Hefe is the closest thing to a potato that grows here, except it grows on trees.in husks akin to chestnuts. After roasted a long time in the umu, the husks are split off and out comes a roasty, firm potato tasting item.
Tongan Bread Recipe:
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup coconut cream
As many pieces of shredded fresh coconut as you like
Beat this together into sticky dough and place into the empty halves of coconut shells. Bake in the umu until the moist and dense bread is lightly brown on top.
As can be imagined, smoke is a necessary condiment for almost all Tongan food.
One other umu dish we had on a different day was papaya chunks, onion, coconut cream, wrapped in aluminum foil and baked for an hour. This might have been my favorite item.
As there was no refrigeration on Ha'afeva, Iwas told to "eat like a Tongan." If food is prepared, it has to be eaten that day because the humidity, heat, and small ants destroy all food over night.
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