Tuesday 29 March 2011

Day Three

Once upon a time, "Day 3"in my family lexicon, was a day to be feared. A day to look sideways and not make too much  noise. To make oneself scarce and avoid eye contact. I've even worked with people who've diarised "Day Three" as a warning.

But with the advent of the Mirena(tm) and the onset of perimenopause, Day Three has finally been humbled. 

And, in fact, now, might just be something to celebrate.

The above pic shows the next step in my attempt to make my own bacon.

Yesterday morning, when I checked it, the soon-to-be-bacon had dried out quite nicely, except for the bottom, which was still quite moist. So I decided to wrap the whole thing in a cloth, re-salt it and apply some weight. 

 As you can see, I've drawn enough moisture out of the meat for it to have enough structural integrity not to sag over a bowl, It's much denser than it was originally, and because I'm a Nurse, it had to pass the sniff test, which it did admirably.
You can see from this photo that the texture/structure/colour of the meat has changed well, and is looking much more like bacon, than like pork.

I've re-wrapped it, added a new layer of salt and a bit of pepper, and I'll check it again tomorrow, I am planning on a five day cure. Tomorrow will be day 4, so we'll see.

Still researching methods and recipes for the smoking, so let me know if you have any tips.

a tip for young players

Here's the thing. The Internet has made the world a VERY small place. Did you know that if you google for information about Lae, PNG, you get me and my blog! So here's a tip. If you're relocating to Lae, make sure you check out who owns and services your compound. If it's Pelgen or Tivon STAY AWAY! Possibly the most badly managed compounds anywhere in PNG.

The "property manager".. and I use those terms advisedly, is STILL yet to respond on the following:

1)     Day guard let 6 people into the property without ID, based on the fact they were christians. Specifically Jo Ho's. No ID check. No coming to my door asking if I wanted nutters who believed that their invisible friend in the sky was judging their every action, nothing.

2)     Despite repeated complaints about one of the security services, specifically Axe Security (another business you should run away from very VERY fast if you find you're allotted to a compound that uses them), last night we had a brawl out the frot of the compound as the Axe guard has a little business on the side.. he charges people money for re-charging their mobile phones, using the compound power. Now I am all good for a bit of entrepreneurial nous, but when the owner of one mobile phone came to collect and didn't have the money, a brawl broke out.

Noice. Safe. Classy.

This is the company that the compound as a whole, had to band together and threaten to withhold rent money just to get a fence higher than 3ft, and some razor wire. This, despite the fact that the compound is in the centre of town:- an area not known for its safety and low crime rate. In fact, the week I got here, the building we back on to was robbed at gunpoint. That's less than 10ft off the back of my house.

Did I also mention that there are 4 single women here in the compound, most days alone and unattended?

3)     I haven't even begun to wax lyrical on the gardener.. or "flower boi" as they're known up here. You remember the one.. the GARDENER WHO PULLED OUT FOUR WEEKS OF CAREFULLY SOURCED AND PLANTED TREES/SHRUBS/PLANTS... including 10 banana trees, a vanilla vine, a rambutan vine, a mango tree, a custard apple plant and a pawpaw tree.

However, the buxus hedge around the property is FABULOUS, and smells delightfully of cat piss.

Pelgen's/Tivon compounds are possibly the only compounds in PNG to have not a single, solitary tropical flower in them, despite the fact that frangipanis, hibiscus, mango and curry trees grow wild and rampant by the road side.

Look, I can deal with the fact that 75% of the guards don't speak English.. I'm in THEIR country, and it's certainly inspiring me to speak better Tok, but there are English, Indian, Hindi, NZ and local women all in this compound, and our common language is English.

If  you're guarding a predominantly English-speaking compound, in a city the Lonely Planet describes as "the most dangerous city in the world outside a war zone" you'd source staff that can be (mostly) understood by the occupants.

I'm not talking about a theoretical discourse on  of Proust's 'A La Recherche du Temps Perdu',(" once in a swimsuit and once in evening dress"), I'm talking being able to differentiate between YES and NO. 

4)     And have we discussed the  pool boi yet? The one who keeps showing up and turning OFF the pool filter, so a delightful layer of green scum grows over the pool within a few hours, rendering it useless? WHY the companies like mine pay money to house us in a "secure guarded compound, complete with pool" I don't know. They'd save a SHITLOAD of $$$$ renting a stand-alone house with no pool and telling us that we've got to source out own guards. 

My company pay $12,000K a month per unit here. There's a house up the street, with higher fences, razor wire, no pool and no security for $7000K.

Look, rant over, but seriously,if you're moving to Lae, check out the compound your company is allotting to you, and make sure it's not run by these numbats. 

This place is NOT for the faint-hearted, it's not down-town suburbia. This is a place where 8 y/o's walk around carrying big bush knives and guns. This isn't about protecting my stash of priceless jewels.(joke), it's about providing a reliable, resourceful and APPROPRIATE security service, something Pelgens/Tivon seem both unable and unwilling to do.

Saturday 26 March 2011

Makin' bacon

I've waxed lyrical about the quality of pork up here. Which is why it's so disappointing when you try the bacon.

It's crap.

Like crap crap.

Like it-tastes-of-mouldy-fish crap.

The general consensus is that whoever supplies the pork for the locally made bacon feeds their beasts on fish meal.

However you dice it (pun intended), it's goddamn awful.

Even the burgers at the Yacht Club become inedible because of the odour of rancid mackerel emanating from the bacon.


I'm going to make my own.

Since my plans to be the Vanilla Queen of Lae have been thwarted by my "gardener", I am now intent on becoming the Pork Queen instead. Although I am sure there are some out there that snickering at that. Maybe I'll just be the Bacon Bitch.

 Take a good wodge of pork belly. This one is free-range and organic which, up here means that its been happily foraging in the jungle on all sorts of goodies. It's nicely marbled and the perfect size for a bacon rasher.

After reading about 40,000 conflicting opinions on do-it-yourself-bacon on the interwebz, here's what I've decided to do.

I dried the bacon thoroughly in the towel, and then used local sea-salt to rub it all over. If you can imagine using the towel like a sushi mat, I placed a goodly whack of salt in a line, against the pork and then rolled all four sides of the slab through it, making sure the salt was evenly and thoroughly covering the meat.

After reading about nitrides and botulism, I've decided for this small amount of non-commercial bacon, to just use salt and pepper. And because everything I own is in a shipping container somewhere off the coast of Samurai right now, I've had to invent. So the soon-to-be-bacon is resting on an inverted saucer in my only salad bowl.  It's in the 'fridge, and every 24hours, I'm going to wipe the meat off, drain any liquid off and repeat the process.

I'll do that for at least 3 days.. maybe as many as 5,and then we'll see.

I am currently researching smoking methods, so if you have any tips, let me know in the comments, please.

Stand by.

Friday 25 March 2011

Attack of the Killer Ninja Puppeh

(Insert David Attenborough voice) 2 unsuspecting maris are unaware of the fate about to befall them. The only give-away is the ferocious paw in the left foreground

As they pass by, blissfully unaware, the vicious killer ninja attack puppeh POUNCES!

One mari manages to escape, yet the other, valiantly trying to continue her work, is helplessly pinned by the raptor-like vice grip of Ninjah Puppeh.

And finally, the Ninjah Puppeh lures both maris into her den, where they heplessly attempt to fend her off. Too late, and despite their attempts, the Ninjah Puppeh will later feast on their bones

Friday 18 March 2011

Char Sui Pork

You make sacrifices to live up here. You mostly live behind 9ft steel fences and razor wire, and not all the tropical frangipanis in the world can hide that fact. It's dangerous to go into town on Thursday, as it's payday and the local troublemakers are out and about.

You ALWAYS lock your car door before leaving the compound.

It's a fact that your house WILL be burgled during your tenure up here. You buy some sort of food when you see them, because you're never sure when you'll see them again.

BUT.. the upside is that everything you buy from the market is organic and local. There are no pesticides up here that are affordable for the locals. And tropical fruits and veg are so unbelievably cheap. I get mud crabs and lobster tails delivered to my door, if I choose. A local, organic pineapple costs about 20c AUD.

And if you shop right, all your meat and eggs are local and organic as well.

Sure, you can buy Zenag or Table Birds chickens, but you can also go to the market and get one slaughtered and plucked for you, right there on the spot.

And not that they slaughter pork on the spot, but depending where you get it from, it's local and effectively free-range.

I say "effectively" because there is really no concept of free-range or organic  up here. It's all just food.

So I get my pork from a farm in the Ramu Valley, where it is left to forage on whatever the jungle can provide.

I can also get cus cus meat and smoked fruit bat, but I am working up to that!

So, to dinner.

While pre-fab sauces, rubs and marinades are becoming more regular in supermarkets, it's just as easy to grab the raw ingredients.

Believe it or not, Char Sui style cooking is popular all over the Pacific Rim,a nd not just indigenous to China. Hawaii has it's own version, as does Malaysia (where you can get vegetarian chari sui, apparently)

Recipe varied from wiki cookbooks version.

  • 1 kg pork shoulder, skin on
  • 2 tbsp. dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 2 tbsp. Shaoxing rice wine
  • 2 tbsp. clear honey
  • 4 tbsp. hoisin sauce
  • ½ tsp. five spice
  • red food colouring (I omitted this, as it's unavailable up here)
  1. Pierce the pork all over thoroughly with a fork. This makes the pork more tender and allows the marinade to penetrate the meat to give flavour all the way through.
  2. Mix all other ingredients together.
  3. Place pork  in a tray and cover with marinade. Ensure strips are covered completely in marinade.
  4. Cover tightly with cling film and place in the refrigerator for several hours. Overnight or for 24 hours is preferable.
  5. Preheat the oven to 160°C and  place the pork on a rack over  a pan in the bottom to catch drippings. Line this pan with aluminium foil to make cleaning easier
  6. Roast for 20 minutes,  Baste to build up a good layer of marinade on the outside of the meat. The pork should turn a golden-red colour as it cooks. After 20 mins, turn and baste againm giving the pork a further 20 mins at this temp.
  7. Increase heat to 220°C for a further 20 mins (total cooking time, 60 mins)
  8. If crackle hasn't crisped up, give it a few minute under the grill, to achieve that authentic charred look and flavour.  

  1. Heat leftover marinade until it becomes thick and glossy, to use as a dipping sauce.
  2. Cut pork into .5cmslices and serve on white rice with sauce/marinade. 

Monday 14 March 2011

Get me outta Dodge.

Where I'm living is quite nice. Actually, it's awesome. I'm 30mtrs above sea level, and given that Lae was under tsunami warning over the weekend, that's a good thing.

However, even I can have too much of a good thing, and after 3 weeks of compound living, AND living in Lae (which is PNG's 2nd largest city, yet only about the size of an average suburb  in Melbourne) I just had to get outta Dodge. Particularly, as behind the compound,they're building a new ramp for the hospital, and the generator goes SEVEN days a week, from 8 to 5.

So this weekend, I was offered the opportunity to take a drive to Bulolo.  Here in PNG, distance in kilometers is pretty much irrelevant. Bulolo, despite being only about 100kms away, is a good 2-3 hour drive. The drive includes some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever witnessed, and some of the roughest roads known to man.

Road doesn't look too bad, does it?That's because this is a photo of the approx 3kms in the whole journey without a pot hole.

This is what 99% of the journey is like. In fact,here in PNG, THIS bit qualifies as a good stretch.

There's a river crossing or two.

The landscape changes from pure PNG  jungle, to rolling hills so green they would rival Ireland, past remote villages where naked pikaninnis line the road, holding up the clearly universal "peace" sign.

Sunday isn't a bad day to go driving in Lae. It's a well-known fact that the raskols adhere to "Church on Sunday, Murder on Monday" so the roads were lined with people in their Sunday best, and while we took every precaution, we were met with only smiles and friendly waves.

Any picture I take just cannot convey the sheer size of this place. The hills (because we're still only in the coastal lowlands.. and nowhere near the Highlands) are impossibly huge. And impossibly steep.

With all respect to everyone who fought in any war, it's a common saying up here: "Who thought it would be a good idea to walk across Papua New Guinea and then pick a fight?"

My mari asked me about my weekend this morning. I told her "I drove to Bulolo, bought a packet of Twisties and drove back"

She thinks I'm aptly named  crazy dim-dim mari got im buai in gras bilong het.

Even Bubbles, the Vicious Killer Attack Ninja Puppeh is know as crazy lady guard dog mari!

And this is how a Vicious Killer Attack Ninja Puppeh guards her mistress on the long drive home.


Next week, I'm going to try to get even further, and drive up to visit friends in Wau. 

Saturday 12 March 2011

Saturday Morning Market.


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It’s a goanna!


On a steeek!




**Random Jeff Dunham reference**


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Erm…. My pronunciation is going to get me into trouble

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See that big yellow thing in the background? I’ve been asking, since I came up here in 09, what they are. You can get them at roadside markets all over Morobe Province. Often, they come in the most amazing deep red.

They are called Mariposa, or so I thought. And I always wondered why they were called after the Spanish word for “butterfly” and why people always giggled and turned away when I asked then how you cook it, or “what yu use him for?”
A Spanish word as part of the local language is not so odd.Tok Pisin is a melange of Australian-pronounced English, German, Italian and French.


No. It’s not Mariposa.


Mari Pleeza.

You work it out.

Thursday 10 March 2011

This morning's haul

It's Thursday. In Lae, it's pretty much universally referred to as "stay-at-home Thursday". Primarily because it's pay day for a lot of the locals, and the queues for the bank are so long, the often stretch around the block. Combine that with scorching heat, and strength sapping humidity, and you've got all the ingredients for a couple of the locals to let their inner raskol out for a run.  It's just another way we bounce up here in Lae. It's also means I get to work from home, so Thursday is going to be by blog/obligatory email home day. And I get to go to the market nice and early, to pick up the best the vendors have on offer.

Today I grabbed a mango for breakfast, a hand of eating bananas, some more rambutans and some kina. Kina is the name of the currency up here, but also the name of a tasty mussel/pipi/clam-like mollusc. Originally, transactions were made in Kina shells, thereby giving rise to the name of the currency. They are large and meaty and I think they're going to be awesome on pasta tonight.They're currently de-sanding themselves in the bath. You have to rinse them for at least 4 hours before you can cook them, to get rid of the sandy grit, and also the tiny kina crabs that live in some of them.

Lae is shrouded in its usual haze of overcast cloud, wood smoke and dust. The local ladies are getting to know me at the market now, They call me and show me their wares with smiles  that are blindingly white, and heart-grippingly genuine. Some of them have walked 6 hours down from the mountains to bring just a few hands of bananas or a bag of charko lif down to town. Pikininis stare unabashedly at my hair and ask their Mamis why the white lady has buai in her "gras bilong het".

The smell of Lae is one of woodsmoke, BO, mangoes, dust and the sea. Sometimes, when the mackerel factory is canning, it smells of that, too. When the vanilla factory AND the mackerel factory are processing at the same time, it can be a little...err...overwhelming.

We had an awesome tropical storm last night. torrential rain, lightning, thunder, the whole shebang. The overnight rain has damped down the dust and pulled some of the humidity out of the air, I don't need the aircon on just yet.  It's my haus mari's day off.. the workmen next door have yet to arrive and switch on that bloody gen-set, I have a puppeh at my feet, an organic, free trade, single source coffee in my mug  and a 'fridge filled with all sorts of local goodness.

Every day, I feel more and more contented, and more and more home.

Wednesday 9 March 2011

arpinoon ol man and mari!

Guess who's back in PNG?


Got me a 3 year gig up here. And now, I am working on social media solutions for small business, as well as looking at ways to export spice back into OZ, so I'll have MUCH more time to hang out here!!

So lukim yu from the land of:


cassia bark, rambutans and mangosteens. Total cost? about $2.00 at the local market.

There is something about this place. It's certainly not for the faint-hearted. Particularly if you're a woman. But once you get past the dust and the buai spitting, it's one of the most beautiful places on earth. The mountains are like nothing we've got back home, they're huge! As a friend said "who looked at those peaks and thought it would be a good idea to walk across them and invade Australia?"

My days are filled with breakfast at the Yacht club, watching the locals in dug-outs and banana boats head in and out, doing laps of the pool while my mari (housemaid) cleans, supervising the gardener who's putting in my herb and fruit garden. So far we've planted lemongrass, chilli, a mango tree and two banana trees. Hopefully my vanilla  vine will go in next week.

A weeks worth of fruit and veg can be picked up from the market for less than $10AUD, I got excited today, because we got new razor- wire, I had home made Singapore chilli mud crab and French champagne on my birthday, and Friday night I had the most amazing all-you-can-eat seafood buffet at the Lae International for about $27 AUD a head.

I'm home