One of the things I wanted to do while I was up here in PNG, was learn about the local food. PNG, and Lae is blessed with an abundance of tropical fruits and veggies that we just can't get in Melbourne. For example, I have tried paw paw at home, and found it really rather nasty. But up here, fresh off the tree, with a squeeze of lemon juice...
PNG is a foodie/localvore's wet dream. All the produce sold at the local market is from the area... and I mean, within a couple of hours' WALK. No pesticides are used (too expensive) and the suppliers are the local villages, so the money you spend stays in the local community.
You can go to the supermarkets and get apples or pears, or watermelon wrapped in plastic, but why would you??
I also wanted to find out about local dishes, and on the way home from Madang this weekend, we stopped at a road side stall to buy what I thought was lemon grass.
It turned out to be something called pit-pit, and at K2.00 (AUD $0.75) I thought that I'd give it a red hot go, and get our haus mari to teach me to cook it.
pit-pit is the edible stalk of a wild cane that grows rampantly up here. It looks like lemongrass on steroids. And I was reliably informed that to cook pit pit, you need coconut. Not kulau, young coconut, but "dry" coconut.
And to get to the meat of the dry coconut, I was going to need some tools.
A panga, or a mean-arse freaking HUGE bush knife. And a coconut scraper.
You can buy electric coconut scrapers up here, for about K300.00, but for the amount of times that I will be using it, a K4.00 worked just fine.
It's bloody hard work, though, and took about half an hour to scrape the meat from a single coconut.
you peel the outer leaves from the pit pit, and expose the "meat", which can only be described as like a white bullrush.
Boil the pit pits in water and salt, for about 20 minutes. Add sliced "strong banana" if you care to.
While the pit pit is cooking, add about 1/2 a cup of water to your scraped coconut and wring the cream out of it. Discard the coconut pulp.
Drain the cooking water from the pit-pit/banana and return to pot. Add the coconut milk, a sliced chili, 1/4 of a brown onion finely chopped, a knob of fresh grated ginger and bring back to the boil. Simmer for a further 10 minutes.
The banana takes on the texture of a cooked potato and the pit-pit absorbed a lot of the coconut water. It's amazingly tasty and must be super low-GI, as we weren't hungry again for hours.