One of the fruits most associated with the islands is, of course, the coconut. The trunk of the coconut palm, known as the ‘tree of life’, is used as a building material, while the fruit is consumed in all its forms. It is wrapped with a thick layer of fibres, under which a thin brown shell encases sparkling white flesh. When coconuts are young, part of the inside is liquid; this is coconut water. Then, as the fruit ripens, it becomes solid. Coconut milk is used in numerous culinary preparations and is made by pressing grated coconut flesh.
The Polynesian oven, a traditional cooking technique
During festive occasions, food is still cooked in earth ovens or cooking pits, according to a traditional procedure that dates back to ancient times. This consists in digging a hole about a metre deep, with the surface area varying according to the quantity of food to be cooked. Dry wood is placed on the bottom and covered with volcanic stones. The wood is burnt to heat the stones, then the food (wild pig, fish, taro, cassava, uru, etc.) is wrapped in banana leaves and placed on the stones to cook. The food is covered with more hot stones and then with earth and sand, to create a steaming/braising effect. The oven is then watched constantly and, if any smoke appears through a hole, it has to be blocked. A meal generally takes a few hours to prepare using this traditional method.
Tama’a Maitai! Enjoy your meal!