Me’akai or Food, or Things to eat, is a passion for most Tongans. We love to eat and have a culture that spends a significant amount of it’s valued activities around meals.
The meal provided for any activity, is a central part of the value of that activity.
You can be forgiven a bad service, through the provision of a good meal.
‘Otai is a fruit punch, drink, made from coconut milk, coconut juice, mixed with water melon. Ingredients. Watermelon Coconut Milk (as opposed to the ‘juice’) Coconut Meat Shavings Sugar The Water Melon is grated ‘scraped’, not squeezed, into a bowl/container as what is desired is not just the juice but the meat as well. The creamy ingredient is added to the water melon, and several substitutes are used, depending on availability and or dietery choices.
On any given Sunday, the major dish that you’ll find in every ‘umu, is the “Lu XXXX” (no not the alcoholic version) the “Lu meat-of-choice” which is the meat ‘covered’ in coconut milk wrapped inside taro leaves. Baked in the oven (earth or above-ground) for 2 ~ 3 hours, the juice from the meat and coconut milk seap into the taro leaves whilst the meat comes out tender. The Coconet TV
A dish everyone looks forward to at the Kai Pola is the humble ‘Ota or raw fish dish. The raw fish is served in coconut oil with chopped vegetables. And while you’re in the market for fish, if you’re in the Chullora/Bankstown area, you are welcome to join us at the Chullora Fish Market for well served fish by Piula and his slicing and dicing knives.
The ‘umu or “earth-oven” is the best slow cooker and traditional method for preparing high volume meals. On a Sunday morning, or any time you need to feed a lot of people, the ngoto ‘umu (under-ground oven pit) is prepared, and the family gets together to prepare the meal to be baked inside the ‘umu. Coconuts are de-husked, cracked and the meat is finely scraped over the hakalo. The meat shavings are squeezed to drain out the milk/cream and becomes a critical ingredient for the key dishes for the day.
Young coconut fruit is cracked with the juice drained and mixed with the flesh which has been scraped from the shell. The two are stirred in a pot and served warm. It’s the ‘warm’ version of ‘otai, and tastes delicious. Labour intensive to select the coconuts, dehusk, crack and scrape, so it isn’t as common a treat anymore, but definitely well appreciated whenever it’s available and an important part of the Kai Pola offerings.
The Niu coconut cream and meat are the base ingredient for most every food in Tonga. Both men and women are involved with the processing of coconuts. It is also a viable export in raw form (copra) or better yet as finished product. Ian and Vanessa Jones set up a business in Vava’u that exploits the features of the Niu, together in syncronicity with the ecology of Vava’u.