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Tongan Cuisine

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Overview of Tongan Cuisine History Edit

It is considered that the Tongan region has been inhabited since the 5th century BC. Traditional Tongan fare include many dishes such as suckling spit-roasted pig; fresh seafoods either raw or cooked in coconut milk such as fish, lobster, and octopus; and fresh tropical fruits. Many restaurants in Tonga often serve foods originating from Taiwanese, German, Italian, Indian and, Japanese cuisine, including a mix of tastes from neighboring island countries.

Cuisines of Tonga Edit

Map of Tonga

Map of Tonga- Click to enlarge

Tongan cuisine is a very rich one having been influenced by international tastes. The staples of Tongan foods are pork, chicken, beef, sheep ribs, and fish to name a few popular meats; coconut milk; taro leaves; and the various starches such as yams, taro, sweet potatoes, and tapioca. Traditional food is cooked in an underground oven called umu, unless of course it is the most popular spit-roasted succulunt pig.

Preparation Methods for Tongan Cooking Edit

Tongans use an underground oven called an umu, and this takes about an hour or so for the food to cook. This is a great way to cook if you plan to bake an entire day's worth of food! Tongans normally use the umu on Sundays, thus letting the food bake while they are attending church in the morning.

Umu pit

'Umu' pit with burning hot stones, almost ready to be filled with food to be baked.

How to make an umu:
  1. Dig pit large enough to hold your day's worth of food
  2. Line pit with rocks
  3. Start a very hot fire in the pit with great pieces of wood; when rocks are very hot, take wood out and replace with umu prepared foods
  4. Securely cover foods with blankets you no longer care for, because you will be covering the blankets and foods with dirt! The dirt is to retain the heat within the umu.

Preparing the food for the umu:

  1. Chop up any choice of meat you prefer (popular meats are: Chicken, sheep ribs, and corned beef!)
  2. Chop up onions (and tomatoes if you want)
  3. Place meat, and onions (and tomatoes if you want) in neatly overlapped taro leaves which will act as your pan
  4. Salt, and pour coconut milk over meat -- just enough to cover
  5. If you are gifted, use banana leaves to wrap around the taro leaves so as to keep the coconut milk from seeping out, or you could just use aluminium foil.
  6. What you just made is called lu; Make several of these for the umu.
  7. Do not forget to include your root crops to bake along with your yummy lu! Root crops: Tapioca (manioke), yams (ufi), sweet potatoes (kumala), taro (talo), and kape.

Tongan Food Traditions and Festivals Edit

Spit roasted pig

Young Tongans in dance wear with delicious spit-roasted pig! Yum..

Tongans love to eat which is proved by the common obese natives. Tongan food is highly addictive once tasted, so do not laugh when I say 'obese'. When Tongans have a reason to throw a feast, they will go all out which of course turns into one celebrated festival!

Spit-roasted succulent pigs are what define a 'feast' in Tonga. Other dishes found at feasts are: 'Ota ika (raw fish with coconut milk, onions, tomatoes, lemon juice); fish, chicken, and sheep ribs (sipi) baked wrapped in taro leaves with coconut milk (lu); feke (octopus), and clams cooked in coconut milk; lobster; potato and chicken salad; cole slaw; yams (ufi), and sweet potatoes (kumala); and fresh tropical fruit just to name a few.

One of the most popular Tongan festivals is the Heilala festival week which is a beauty contest celebrated with many feasts, singing, and dancing.

Tongan Pride in their Traditional Foods Edit

  • ImagesCARM0941

    Yum..

    Are you into Tongan Cooking and would like to be interviewed?

Tongans are passionate about their traditional dishes, and they enjoy presenting them to foreigners who have never tasted them before. Whether they are cooking dishes that go back in time for centuries or a modern take on a traditional dish, Tongans take pride in what they do.

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