The bush food recipes of the idyllic Milne Bay, situated at the extreme eastern end of Papua New Guinea (PNG), are based on simple seasonal ingredients that pack a tasty punch and hold their own in terms of delicious flavour.
Traditional meals from this part of PNG use healthy foods from the forest and recipes, often handed down generation-to-generation, focus heavily on ingredients like yams, taro, fish, coconuts and varied greens and herbs.
This recipe below comes straight from the travel experiences of Indigenous food enthusiast, Jennifer Baing-Waiko: host of Café Niugini
In episode seven part two of this show, Jennifer explores the hillside yam houses of the bay’s Sibonai Village and discovers how the locals use freshly caught fish with yams and bush-sourced ingredients in a clay pot to feed the whole family.
Sugar cane leaves
Wild ginger leaves
Fresh fish (we used reef fish)
Shredded taro leaves
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
This recipe can be varied according to taste and how many people you are cooking for.
Note: There are no quantities or cooking times in this recipe because it's all about 'outdoors' cooking. Always keep an eye on the food and taste to ensure the best final product.
Place sugar cane leaves at the bottom of a clay pot.
Add wild ginger and tulip seeds.
Fill the pot with a few washed yams, fish and chopped bananas.
Top the pot’s ingredients with tied knots of tulip greens to absorb residual vegetable juice.
Add shredded taro leaves over existing ingredients to seal in flavours and steam the food.
Cream the food with coconut milk by squeezing fresh coconut over the pot. If you do not have freshly cut coconut, pour store bought coconut milk over the top of the taro leaves. Allow the liquid to seep through the leaves.
Simmer the contents of the clay pot over the heat of the fire.
When the food is almost finished cooking, peel away the top layer of leaves from the top and discard.
Spray a little more fresh coconut crème over top of the dish. Continue cooking.
Once the fish is cooked – it should be cooked inside but still moist and bursting with coconut juices – remove the pot from the heat.
Open the leaves and transfer the food into a basket or plate. Food put to side ready for eating.