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Domoda – Gambia National Dish – Day 267/Dish 65

December 5, 2010

Hello hungry adventurers!

As you can already tell, this posting is a bit different than the usual MHT posting.  I am trying out the, “post by phone” feature for the first time for a main posting.   Please leave your feedback if you like, dislike this method.   I am, as always posting the text version of the article and recipe.  If this turns out to be a popular method, I will continue to post by phone and text.  Let me know your thoughts!


Our destination today is another African nation.  If the bulbous northwest portion of Africa were a head looking across the Atlantic at South America, then Gambia would be approximately where the nose is.  To get there from Gabon we simply sail north from the Gulf Of Guinea around the point, past Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and finally to the shores of Gambia.

Gambia was first colonized by the Portuguese in the mid fifteenth century.  Like many of its neighbors, Gambia was a lucrative port in the international slave trade.  At this time in history, the slave trade was controlled by several western European powers including France, England, Portugal and Holland.  Slaves were first brought to Europe to perform domestic tasks in wealthy European households.  As the West Indies and North America began to emerge as agricultural powerhouses, the trade soon moved west and continued throughout the eighteenth century.  Eventually the land near the mouth of the Gambia River was ceded to the English who maintained control in the country until independence was declared in 1965.

The English outlawed slavery in the British Empire in 1807 making them the first European power to do so.  As history shows, the awful trade in human chattel continued throughout the Atlantic basin for years afterward.  To this day there remains a lucrative slave trade in many parts of the world.  Although it is a more subversive and hidden practice today, it still affects upwards of 27 Million people globally. To read about it, follow this link.

Gambia is the smallest nation on the African continent.  In area it is slightly smaller than Jamaica.  The population is largely Muslim, English speaking and economically focused on agriculture.  The national dish of Gambia is called Domoda.  It is essentially a groundnut stew made with tomatoes, and peanuts along with some type of meat although it can be made as a vegetarian or vegan dish.

I have appreciated using the Congo cookbook as a reference for regional dishes from this part of Africa.  Their explanation of this dish is posted here.

“Domoda (or Domodah) is Gambia’s version of Sub-Saharan Africa’s ubiquitous Groundnut Stew. In its simplest versions, made without meat, it is basically a Peanut Sauce. It can be made with meat of some sort; usually beef or bushmeat. If made with chicken it is quite similar to Chicken in Peanut-Tomato Sauce.  Whatever form it takes, it is usually a peanut sauce, served over rice.”

This popular dish has spread throughout much of the region.  Peanuts are not native to Africa.  They first arrived sometime after 1560 when the Portuguese and Spanish landed on western Africa’s shores bringing the now popular legume with them.  Today, Peanuts are a major part of Gambia’s economy representing nearly 6.8% of GDP.

This dish and others from the region represent the crux of the thesis for this blog.  It is a popular local dish, created from BOTH local and imported ingredients, that provides not only staple nutrition including large amounts of protein, but also a dish that has become a part of the local culture through its popularity.   Variants of the dish can be found in nearly every sub-saharan African nation in and around the Congo and Gambian river basins.  In turn, Domoda and other dishes like it were brought to the Americas with the slave trade and form a part of the culture of the Caribbean and American culinary histories.  You can find variants of this and other West African dishes in the Americas, especially in areas where slavery was prevalent and where peanuts are a part of the local agriculture.  Evidence to this point can be found at this link which is one of many Americanized versions of a peanut stew that can be found with a quick Google search



Appearance:  4 out of 5 (beautiful fall colors)

Aroma: 5 out of 5

Flavor: 5 out of 5

Total: 14 out of 15


2 cups of peanut butter

1 large onion (chopped)

2-4 diced whole chili peppers (depending on your preference for heat)

2 liters water

2 whole lemons

2 cubes Maggi or Bouillon

4 medium bitter tomatoes (if available) or 4 tbsp tomato paste or 1 can diced tomatoes (1 of the three)

2lbs beef or chicken

1/2lb pumpkin or other squash/gourd

2 medium fresh tomatoes chopped

Salt and pepper to taste


Wash and cut meat into bite size pieces (chicken should be cut into larger pieces).

Lightly sear the meat in vegetable oil with the onions

In a cooking pan, boil the meat, onions and chopped fresh tomatoes in water for 10 minutes.

Add peanut butter and other ingredients, bring to boil stirring occasionally.

Reduce heat after 10 minutes and simmer for 45 minutes.

Serve with plain boiled rice.

I adapted this recipe to include elements of the Congo Cookbooks version of Domoda.  Here is the link to that recipe.

NOTE: If you are using chicken then make sure you sear the chicken in a little oil or fat before boiling. The dish is also referred to as ‘Durango’ in Mandinka and as ‘Mafe’ by the Wollofs of Senegal.

Main recipe source:

add’l sources:


Audio Post

November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 25, 2010

Good Holiday Morning to you fellow travelers!

Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours…

Eric Ackerson

Nyembwe – Gabon National Dish – Day 264/Dish 64

November 11, 2010

Hello travellers!

France is such an important stop on a culinary journey.  This goes without saying.   As we digest the delicious Coq au Vin, think of the other 19o-something countries on this journey and remember that many of them were crafting dishes long before the French were French and long before Escoffier wrote down his discoveries and thoughts.  It is both France AND the other countries that brings us out of our Lazy-Boy recliners and pulls us away from the TV as the smells and tastes of so many diverse cultures pulls us ever onward.  So today we travel to the equator and back to the Slave Coast of Western Africa.   This nation we are to visit was at one time a French territory and is still influenced by France to this day.

Gabon is situated on the Gulf of Guinea.  Neighboring nations include Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and the Republic of Congo, all of which we have visited before.  To get there from France, we sail due south from Western Europe around the bulb of Western Africa and into the Gulf of Guinea landing int he southeast corner of that body of water.

Originally this area was populated by members of the Pygmy tribe who were displaced by the Bantus as they migrated to the West.  Europeans arrived first with the Portuguese in the 15th century from whence the name derived.   “Gabão”, means cloak which is roughly the shape of the estuary of the Komo River by Libreville, Gabon’s capitol.  The French settled here first in 1875 then officially occupied it in 1885.

This excerpt from Wikipedia tells of the next period in Gabon history and the influence the French had there.

Omar Bongo Ondimba in 2004

“In 1910, Gabon became one of the four territories of French Equatorial Africa, a federation that survived until 1959. These territories became independent on August 17, 1960. The first president of Gabon, elected in 1961, was Léon M’ba, with Omar Bongo Ondimba as his vice president. French interests were decisive in selecting the future leadership in Gabon after Independence; French logging interests poured funds into the successful election campaign of M’ba, an ‘evolué’ from the coastal region.


After M’ba’s accession to power, the press was suppressed, political demonstrations banned, freedom of expression curtailed, other political parties gradually excluded from power and the Constitution changed along French lines to vest power in the Presidency, a post that M’ba assumed himself. However, when M’ba dissolved the National Assembly in January 1964 to institute one-party rule, an army coup sought to oust him from power and restore parliamentary democracy. The extent to which M’ba’s dictatorial regime was synonymous with “French Interests” then became blatantly apparent when French paratroopers flew in within 24 hours to restore M’ba to power.

After a few days of fighting, the coup was over and the opposition imprisoned, despite widespread protests and riots. The French government was unperturbed by international condemnation of the intervention; and paratroops still remain in the Camp de Gaulle on the outskirts of Gabon’s capital. When M’Ba died in 1967, Bongo replaced him as president, and continued to be the head of state until his death in 2009, winning each contested election with a substantial majority.”


"Jock" a Western Lowland Gorilla in Bristol Zoo England

In other news, Gabon has had many successes as a nation.  Due to its geographic location on the equator, the climate is tropical with nearly 85% covered in rainforest.   Governmental policies in 2002 created by then President Omar Bongo Ondimba created a vast national park service over nearly 11% of the nations territory.  This allows species such as Lowland Gorillas and Forest Elephants to thrive with Gabon having nearly 20,000 gorillas and 60,000 Elephants, the largest population in Africa.  There are also over 700 species of birds found here.  These preservation efforts make a Gabon a uniquely beautiful place to visit.


Generally speaking, Gabon is considered a successful country.  Relatively high wealth, much of which is created by petroleum reserves found offshore, has helped create stability throughout the country.

Gabons national dish is one which we are familiar with.  In Gabon it is called Nyembwe.  It is a stew made from meat and the distinctive Red Palm Oil.  The last time we met this African specialty, it was called Muamba de Galinha in Angola (also visited by us before) also known as Mwambe (Democratic Republic of Congo) and is popular along the Congo River Basin and throughout western Africa.  Since we cooked this dish already, I am posting it with its new name and the picture I took the first time.  I love the colors in this dish.  They are vibrant and the flavor is so unique and unusual that I encourage you to track down some Red Palm Oil and try it yourself.


Nyembwe – Gabon National Dish – Day 264/Dish 64


Muamba De Galinha – Angola National Dish – Day 9/Dish 5


Appearance:  4 out of 5

Aroma: 3 out of 5

Taste:  3 out of 5


1 Chicken, cut into serving-sized pieces

Juice of 1 Lemon

250ml (about 1 cup) Palm Oil (or groundnut oil with 2 tsp Paprika)

3 medium Onions, chopped

3 Garlic cloves, minced

1 Scotch Bonnet or other Chili Pepper de-seeded and chopped or left whole if you prefer milder

3 Tomatoes, quartered

1 Squash (eg Butternut) or Sweet Pumpkin de-seeded, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces.

250ml canned Palm Soup Base (‘Sauce Graine’ or ‘Noix De Palme’) or homemade Nyembe Sauce (this can be omitted)

15 small, tender, Okra washed and ‘topped and tailed’ or sliced into coins

Salt, to taste


Squeeze the Lemon juice over the Chicken and allow it to marinate for about an hour.

Add the Palm Oil to a deep frying pan and heat on medium-high heat.

A splash guard is recommended (IKEA $3.99) for covering the pan since this oil really pops and sputters and is a intense red orange that will stain.


Place the Chicken in the pan and brown on all sides then add the Onion, Garlic, Chili and Tomato.

Stirring occasionally, simmer over low-medium heat for about 30 minutes then add the Squash and cook for an additional 15 minutes.

Remove the Chicken from the pan and place on platter.

Add the canned Palm Soup Base and the Okra stirring well to incorporate the soup base.

Add Chicken back to pot.

Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the Okra is tender.

Season and serve with Rice or a Maize Fufu.

Gabon version:

Coq Au Vin – France National Dish – Day 258/Dish 63

November 7, 2010

Hello hungry travelers!  Today marks a culinary landmark in our global journey.  Admittedly country number 63 seems like an odd landmark, until you realize that the country in question is France.   Anyone who knows even the slightest thing about culinary history realizes the significance of France.

To get there from Finland is simple.  Head southwest and use your nose.  You will smell France before you come close.  Essentially we can head overland through Poland, and Germany before crossing into the mountainous northwest, or we can approach by boat landing somewhere near Brittany.  Regardless, the moment we are on French soil, we are surrounded by delicacies and regional creations that have graced kings tables for many centuries.

Le Cordon Bleu, Foie Gras, Mise en place, vin de table, beurre mane, rotissieur, the list of French cooking terms and accomplishments in the kitchen is endless.  Any chef worth their salt has at least a rudimentary understanding of this romance language and a working knowledge o f the contributions of Escoffier and thousands of other French culinary innovators.  Alright, I had better stop before I inflate the already legendary egos further.


The Eiffel Tower



Today’s posting is going to highlight less about the country of France and more about the embodiment of peasant cooking within the national dish of a country that has done things to and with food that resonate through the hearts of every gourmand.

If you are following our journey closely, you will see that the vast majority of our national dishes are in fact worthy of a king, but have origins much closer to the earth.  Peasant dishes make up many if not all of our symbolic “Nations Best”.  This is fitting since these nations would not be if not for their people, and generally it is the people who identify and perfect these same dishes over hundreds and thousands of years.

In the case of France, it might seem odd that the national dish is something as simple as chicken cooked in red wine.  Considering the lengths that the French have gone to dig flavors out of the ground(literally in the case of truffles) and develop some of the most challenging techniques known to the culinary world yet a dish as simple as Coq Au Vin becomes the dish that most exemplifies the cuisine of the country.  Seriously, this simple braised meat dish with gravy winds up here on this website because it is the pinnacle of the countries cuisine?  Yes.  Simply put, yes.

Here is the reason why.  Coq Au Vin has that strange elemental thing that creates a magnetic reaction in people patient enough to prepare it, namely flavor!  Huge, massive, crushing, yet oddly subtle and perfect amounts of flavor mark this and many other French dishes.  I surmise that it is the simple aspects of this dish that make it so perfect and revered.  It is the farmer-peasant in all of us that cries out for simple delicious dishes such as this one.

Thus Coq Au Vin has outpaced dishes like Foie Gras Terrine for its place at the culinary winners table and a place in the annals of My Hungry Tum’s archives.


Foie Gras - Fattened Goose Liver



Julia Child is a name that most of you know and likely either love or hate.  Probably love.  She was the original food blogger, before there was anything called the internet.  An upstart, large woman (and by that I mean big in both body and heart) with a passion for all things French and cooking related.  From her seemingly misguided days in a cooking school in Paris back when only men trained as chefs, to her zealous search for perfectly prepared classic dishes, including this one, to her ability to send this passion across the pond to the hearts and stomachs of the American housewife, Julia made her mark on culinary tradition and journalistic history with her much loved TV programs and much thumbed through cookbooks.

I respect her immensely and it seemed only fitting to use her recipe for this dish.  I have adapted the dish since I had no Cognac (another great French discovery) with which to flambé and wish I had some, but this will have to do.  It was rich earthy and wonderful, albeit a bit time consuming and labor intensive.

When you prepare and eat this dish, think of all the thousands of peasant dishes that deserve credit for creating complex unique and satisfying flavor out of local at hand ingredients such as those found in your own farmyard.  That is what we are aiming for here and I believe accomplishing.

Coq Au Vin is from Burgundy.  I suggest using a red wine from this region and especially one that does not have big oaky flavor like a Cabernet, for example try a Burgundy, Chianti etc.  I chose a nice Chianti and next time I will use a burgundy.  I will also have cognac next time to get that flambed flavor that cannot be recreated without lighting the alcohol on fire.  Plus it is fun!

And so, without further delay…..Bon Appetite!



Appearance: 5 out of 5

Aroma: 5 out of 5

Flavor:  5 out of 5

Total: 15 out of 15…..a perfect score!!!

Julia Child’s Coq au Vin


2 1/2 to 3 pounds cut-up frying chicken, skin on and thoroughly dried (I used skinless boneless breasts and thighs instead)*

4 ounces lean thick-cut bacon

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup cognac

2 cups red wine (Pinot Noir, Burgundy, Beaujolais or Chianti)**

2 cup homemade chicken stock or low-sodium chicken stock or broth

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 cloves garlic, mashed or minced

1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon thyme

Brown-Braised Onions (see recipe below)

Mushrooms (see recipe below)

3 tablespoon all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons butter, softened

Parsley sprigs  (chopped fine)


Dry the chicken thoroughly on a towel. Season chicken with salt and pepper; set aside.

Remove any rind off the bacon and cut the bacon into lardons (rectangles 1/4-inch across and 1-inch long). In a saucepan, simmer the bacon sticks in 2 quarts of water for 10 minutes; remove from heat, drain, rinse in cold water, and pat dry.

In a large heavy frying pan, casserole dish, or electric skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil until moderately hot. Add the bacon and saute slowly until they are lightly browned. Remove bacon to a side dish. Place chicken pieces into the hot oil (not crowding pan), and brown on all sides. Return bacon to the pan, cover pan, and cook slowly for 10 minutes, turning chicken once.

If you have the cognac: After browning the chicken, uncover pan, pour in the cognac.  Flambé by igniting with a lighted match. Let flame a minute, swirling pan by its handle to burn off alcohol; extinguish with pan cover.

Pour the red wine into the pan and add just enough chicken broth to completely cover the chicken pieces. Stir in tomato paste, garlic, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring the liquid to a simmer, then cover pan, and simmer slowly for about 30 minutes or until the chicken meat is tender when pierced with a fork or an instant-read meat thermometer registers an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare the Brown-Braised Onions and the Mushrooms.

When the chicken is done cooking, remove from the pan to a platter, leaving the cooking liquid in the pan. Increase heat to high and boil the cooking liquid rapidly until approximately 2 cups of liquid remains.

While the liquid is boiling, in a small bowl, blend the 3 tablespoons flour and 2 tablespoons softened butter into a smooth paste; beat the flour/butter mixture into the approximately 2 cups hot cooking liquid with a whisk. Simmer and stir for a minute or two until the sauce has thickened (the result will be a sauce thick enough to lightly coat a spoon – just thick enough to coat the chicken and vegetables lightly). If sauce is too thin, boil down rapidly to concentrate; if sauce is too thick, thin out with additional spoonfuls of chicken stock. Taste the final sauce, adding more salt and pepper if necessary.

Before serving, reheat the onions and mushrooms (if necessary).

Storing: Chicken is now ready for final reheating, but can be set aside in the sauce until cool, then covered and refrigerated for 1 to 2 days. To reheat, simmer slowly, covered, over low heat. Baste and turn chicken every 2 minutes until thoroughly warmed through (6 to 8 minutes). NOTE: Do not overcook chicken at this point.

To serve immediately: Shortly before serving, bring the sauce and the cooked chicken to a simmer, cover and simmer slowly for 4 to 5 minutes, until chicken is hot through. NOTE: Do not overcook chicken at this point.

To serve: Either serve from the casserole dish or arrange the chicken on a large platter. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Arrange the Brown-Braised Onions on one side of the chicken and the Mushrooms on the other side. Decorate with sprigs of parsley. Accompany with parsley potatoes, rice, or noodles; buttered green peas or a green salad; hot French bread; and the same red wine you used for cooking the chicken. NOTE: This dish is traditionally served with wide egg noodles.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Brown-Braised Onions:

12 to 24 small white onions, peeled (or double the amount if you want to use tiny frozen peeled raw onions)*
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste

* If neither frozen nor fresh pearl onions are available, substitute one large onion cut into 1/2-inch pieces. (Do not use jarred pearl onions, which will turn mushy and disintegrate into the sauce.)

While chicken is cooking, drop onions into boiling water, bring water back to the boil, and let boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and drain. Cool onions in ice water. Shave off the two ends (root and stem ends) of each onion, peel carefully, and pierce a deep cross in the root end with a small knife (to keep onions whole during cooking).

In a large frying pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil, add parboiled onions, and toss for several minutes until lightly browned (this will be a patchy brown). Add water to halfway up onions and add 1/4 to1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover pan and simmer slowly for 25 to 30 minutes or until onions are tender when pierce with a knife.

NOTE: Onions may be cooked in advance, set aside, then reheated when needed.  Season to taste just before serving.

1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, washed, well dried, left whole if small, sliced or quartered if large
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 tablespoon olive oil

Prepare mushrooms. In a large frying pan over medium heat, heat butter and olive oil; when bubbling hot, toss in mushrooms and saute over high heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from heat.

NOTE: Mushrooms may be cooked in advance, set aside, then reheated when needed.  Season to taste just before serving.

Coq au Vin

recipe source:


Hernekeitto – Finland National Dish – Day 251/Dish 62

October 30, 2010

Hello hungry travelers!  We are heading to Skandinavia today and the region of one half of my heritage.  The other half lies in the Emerald Isle and we will get to Ireland eventually.  Today we explore the country and flavors of Finland!  In truth my family most likely traces back to Norway or Sweden, but who is counting anyhow?

To get to Finland from Fiji we must circumnavigate the globe.  The best route takes us through the Indian Ocean heading westward and through the passage of the Red Sea, the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean Sea and into the Atlantic Ocean where we turn to the north.  The British Isles lie in our path and after we bypass them we head through the channel above Denmark and into the Baltic Sea.  The northern most part of the Baltic is the Bay of Bothnia and the eastern shore of this body of water marks the border of Finland – land of Christmas.

Finland is regarded as the home of Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus, living in the northern Lapland region. Above the Arctic Circle, there is a polar night, a period when the sun does not rise for days or weeks, or even months. Lapland is so far north that the Aurora Borealis, atmospheric fluorescence, is seen regularly in winter.

Overall, Finland is a world leader in many categories including health, economic dynamism, education, political environment and quality of life. Finland has also been ranked the second most stable country in the world and the first in the 2009 Legatum Prosperity rating.  In 2010, the World Economic Forum deemed Finland the 7th most competitive country in the world.

A relative latecomer to industrialization, Finland was primarily agrarian until the 1950’s.  Today it is the least populated nation in Europe and one of the largest in terms of landmass.  Most of the population lives in the southern part of the country near the capital of Helsinki.

Finnish history is tied to the two great superpowers that neighbor it, namely Russia to the east and Sweden to the west.  Prior to 1809, Finland was part of the greater Sweden and composed all of modern day Sweden and Finland and the land surrounding the Gulf of Bothnia.  From 1809 to 1917 Russia invaded the area known as Finland and it became a grand duchy of the Russian Empire.

The Finnish famine of 1866–1868 killed 15% of the population, making it one of the worst famines in European history. (The Irish potato famine 1845-1852 killed 1,000,000 of the population and caused another 1,000,000 to emigrate, reducing the country’s population by 20-25%.) The famine led the Russian Empire to ease financial regulations, and investment rose in following decades. Economic and political development was rapid. The GDP per capita was still half of that of the United States and a third of that of Britain.

In 1918 the series of conflicts between Finland and Russia that would culminate with full autonomy and independence from Russia began.  The civil wars between the Whites(supported by Germany) and the Reds(soviet sympathizers) tore the country in two and the victory of The Whites saw thousands of Reds thrown into internment in camps.

Independence in Finland was official in 1919 with the borders between Russia and Finland drawn in the Treaty of Tartu in 1920.  Finland fought Russia twice in World War 2 but remained officially neutral during the Cold War period.  Despite a few periods of economic recession, Finnish life has been one of agriculture, equity and peace.

Lake Pielinen seen from a hill in Koli National Park


The national dish of Finland is called Hernekeitto, or Finnish Green Pea soup.  I grew up with this simple peasant stew and love its rich earthy flavor.  It is traditionally served with a hearty peasant bread and we often serve it over white rice.  Simple to make and wonderful to eat (if not to look at) Finnish folks might add a mustard to finish the soup ladling it into the salty stew to give it some acidity.  I am using a stone ground brown mustard.  It is an excellent addition!

I could easily see this dish being served by Mrs. Claus the day after Christmas…

Sinterklaas says YUM!



Appearance: 2 out of 5 (what can I say, it’s green pea soup)

Aroma: 5 out of 5

Flavor: 5 out of 5

Total: 12 out of 5


6 – 8 portions

2.5 liters water (or substitute chicken stock for more flavor)

500g dried peas

500g smoked bones or knuckle (savupotka)

(2 dl cream) (about 1 pint)

2 onions

3 carrots

2 laurel leaves

½ tsp black pepper

1 tsp marjoram

1 tsp salt


Steep the peas in water over night. (Some peas require no soaking) Pour out the water, rinse the peas well and strain the remaining water from them. Pour water into a saucepan. Add peas and smoked bones or knuckle. Cook at a low heat for approximately 2 ½ – 3 hours or according to directions on peas.

Remove the smoked bones or knuckle from the saucepan, separate the meat and cut into small pieces. Peel and chop the onions and carrots and add them to the saucepan together with the meat pieces, cream (for a smoother taste if you wish), black pepper, marjoram and salt (as much as needed for your liking).

Cook at a low heat for 30 minutes. If you wish, you can season the soup with a little mustard.

Lovo Fiji National Dish – Day 227/Dish 61 – Celebrating World Food Day!

October 17, 2010

This posting was created on October 16 2010, World Food Day in celebration of that event.  Due to the nature of this challenge (it took all day) I am posting the results today, October 17th.  I will be adding a short video made during the process as soon as it is finished.  Enjoy!

Hello Foodies!  Happy World Food Day 2010 to you all.  I am very happy to be able to present the national dish of Fiji today in honor of World Food Day, but I want to take a moment to reflect on the word hungry.  Hungry is of course one part of the name of this blog, but it is also the daily state for so many human beings globally.  I am curious why, if we are able to produce enough basic food to feed the whole planet, do so many people go to bed hungry every night?  The answer of course is multifaceted and worth pondering.  I feel like any little thing we can do to help promote the sustainable development of food stocks for the planet, especially encouraging local, high value agricultural projects (teach a person to farm) can overcome the issues facing our poorest places globally.

The group Save the Children asked me to consider posting a neat interactive quiz they have designed for this days events.  I agreed to post the quiz, but the code would not incorporate properly with a wordpress blog, so I am simply going to post the link to the Save The Children website and the quiz itself.  Try to guess the answers to the questions while learning some shocking facts about world hunger and food production/consumption and the numbers of children who are without the basic food necessary for survival.  It is sobering to realize how good we have things compared to so many others…


On that note, we are going to visit an area of the globe we have barely touched on today.  I am truly fascinated by the geography culture and food habits of this region.  It is such a vast and underinhabited region that it cannot possibly have the amount of time in this blog as other more populated areas such as say, Africa with its numerous nations.

That being said, I don’t know that many people who wouldn’t want to be on the beach in Fiji right now getting ready to eat a traditional feast (Lovo) with the locals, smelling the slow roasting essence of BBQ cooked underground.  My tummy just rumbled typing that.

Fiji is an island nation in Melanesia about 2000 miles from New Zealand.  Nearby islands include Vanuatu, Tonga, the Samoas and Tuvalu.  The largest Island is Viti Levu.  The following excerpt describes how the Islands got their current name and discusses English Colonization that continued in Fiji from the 18th century till 1970:

Fijians first impressed themselves on European consciousness through the writings of the members of the expeditions of Cook who met them in Tonga. They were described as formidable warriors and ferocious cannibals, builders of the finest vessels in the Pacific, but not great sailors. They inspired awe amongst the Tongans, and all their manufactures, especially bark cloth and clubs, were highly esteemed and much in demand. They called their home Viti, but the Tongans called it Fisi, and it was by this foreign pronunciation, Fiji, first promulgated by Captain James Cook, that these islands are now known.

Although the word Fiji may inspire immediate thoughts of tropical paradise embodied and undisturbed tranquility, the political climate of Fiji has been anything but tranquil in recent times.  In fact, Fiji has been the site of uprisings, military coups and charges of political brutishness by the self appointed leader.  Since independence there have been four coups in Fiji, two in 1987, one in 2000 and one in late 2006. The military has been either ruling directly, or heavily influencing governments since 1987.

Culturally, Fiji is a blend of regional island cultures and imported ethnicities.  The majority of the population is of ethnic Fijian heritage.  The British brought Indo-Malaysian contract laborers to the islands during occupation that now account for about 38% of the population.  Small percentages of Solomon Islanders brought to Fiji as indentured servants account for a small but strong minority group.  This combination of cultures has brought a unique blend of culture to Fiji making it a very interesting destination from a culinary standpoint.

Today’s recipe is more of a menu than a recipe.  It combines several of the elements of Fijian cuisine in a unique cooking style that characterizes the beach BBQ probably better than any other culture.  This method is oft repeated in other places but qualifies as the National Dish of Fiji for the sake of this challenge and is firmly rooted in the history and culture if this beautiful and troubled place.  Lovo literally means Lava and is an underground oven using heated rocks to bake the food.  It is as Fijian as it gets, and also the largest cooking challenge from a technical standpoint that we have undertaken to date.  I will be photographing the steps of this recipe and I hope that some of you are inspired to build your own Lovo some day…

The Menu:

Fish – Whole Red Snapper rubbed in spices and wrapped in banana leaves

Chicken – Marinated in coconut milk, ginger, spicy chilies and lime

Curried Pork Short Ribs

Root Vegetables baked in foil

My version of Yaquona (Cava Root) beverage – In this case, Rum and Coconut Juice

Tropical fruit salsa


Appearance:  3 out of 5

Aroma: 5 out of 5

Flavor: 5 out of 5

Total: 13 out of 15


This entire meal is subjective.  It can be made with chicken, pork or seafood and various root vegetables.  Recipes can be altered and adjusted for each item to achieve the flavors you are interested in.  Using authentic local ingredients will give you the most authentic result, but as with all global recipes, some adjustments may be made based on your local supply of ingredients.  Try finding an Indian or Hispanic grocery for many of these items such as banana leaves.  Also you can substitute foil if you cannot find banana leaves.

1 whole 3-4# fish scaled and gutted with slices across the sides

1 whole chicken



Ginger Root


Coconut Milk 2 cans


Root Vegetables (traditionally dalo (the potatolike root of the taro plant), cassava (the root of the tapioca plant) and Uvi (wild yam).

We will use:  Yam





Fresh Coriander/ Cilantro

Plantain Leaves about 10#

Round Dry River Rocks (be very careful as most rocks will explode if heated)

A round hole in the ground about 2 ft deep by 2.5 feet in diameter


Tin Foil


Dig a large hole in the ground, about 2.5 feet in diameter by 2 feet deep.  Start a fire in the bottom of the hole and add the rocks to the top of the fire when it has burned for awhile.  Be careful while the rocks are heating as they can explode causing severe injury!!!

Wrap all of the food items in either Banana leaves or some similar wrap and laythem carefully on layers of banana leaves over the hot rocks.  Start with the meats and build up with the root vegetables on the top layers.

Cover the entire hole with more banana leaves and dirt and allow the food to cook for at least 3 hours.

Unearth the pit carefully with a shovel.

Carefully remove the wrapped food items with tongs and place on banana leaves to cool.

Open and serve!