The food of the Cook Islands largely centres on the fresh tropical ingredients that are abundantly available. Seafood is cooked in a myriad of ways, commonly underground in an earth oven known as an umu.
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10 Jun 2020 - 11:58 AM  UPDATED 10 Jun 2020 - 11:58 AM

The food of the Cook Islands largely centres on the fresh tropical ingredients that are abundantly available. Seafood is cooked in a myriad of ways, commonly underground in an earth oven known as an umu. Raw fish is also popular, such as in the popular dish, ika mata, a raw fish salad with coconut. Staple ingredients also include papaya, coconut, cassava, breadfruit and taro, which is grown in many parts of the Cook Islands. An alcoholic homebrew made of oranges, malt, yeast and sugar is popular among men, who gather at their local tumunu (bush pub) to drink it.

Key ingredients

Banana
The leaves are used to wrap other foods in order to cook them, such as in the popular dish from Vanuatu, lap lap. The banana fruit is also eaten, both ripe and green.

Breadfruit
This starchy fruit has a bread-like texture and a sweet taste but is used as a vegetable and can be boiled, roasted, fried, baked or barbecued.

Cassava
The starchy root of the cassava plant is usually boiled and served as an
accompaniment to dishes, much like rice.

Coconut
The grated coconut flesh, as well as fresh coconut milk, are used in both sweet and savoury Pacific Island dishes.

Papaya
Papaya is widely grown in the Pacific Islands and is used both ripe and green, in many salads.

Seafood
There are many types of seafood readily available in the Pacific Islands, such as lobster, crab and various types of fish.

Taro
The taro is a tuberous vegetable commonly used in Pacific Island cuisine as an accompaniment to other dishes.

Cooking tips

• When cooking clams, remove from heat as soon as the shells start to open, as this indicates they are cooked.

• When making sauces, don’t cook butter for too long, as it can split.

• When deep-frying, don’t overcrowd the pan or the temperature of the oil will drop and the food will become greasy.

Glossary

Breadfruit
This starchy fruit has a bread-like texture and a sweet taste, but is used as a vegetable and can be boiled, roasted, fried, baked or barbecued.

Cassava
The starchy root of the cassava plant is usually boiled and served as a staple accompaniment to dishes, much like rice.

Coconut
The grated coconut flesh, as well as fresh coconut milk, are used in both sweet and savoury Pacific Island dishes. The first extract of coconut is more commonly called coconut cream, whereas the second extract is the thinner coconut milk.

Coconut heart (the heart of palm)
Coconut hearts are found in the inner core of some breeds of palm trees and can be bought fresh or tinned.

Coriander roots
The roots of the popular coriander leaves have a more intense flavour and are often used in soups and curry pastes.

Smoked sea salt
This is essentially salt with a smoky flavour added. It can be purchased from fine food stores.

Soubise
Soubise is a variation on the classic béchamel sauce, containing onions.

Surf clams
These are medium-sized clams available from most good fishmongers.

Taro
The taro is a tuberous vegetable commonly used in Asian and island cuisine as an accompaniment to other dishes.

Udon noodles
Udon noodles are thick wheat noodles, most often used in Japanese dishes. They can be found in most supermarkets.