It’s all FOOD this week, folks and basically all one meal. – that ended up as a LOT of leftovers.
Tevita, a friend from Samoa, is here, along with two young men: his brother, his son. (I should have gotten THEIR photo … Now I think of it! Lordy.) Anyway – they are here for a big coral gardening and happy chicken workshop, and flights from Samoa as they are, the Samoans arrived several days early. On Sunday night, the day before the coral work was to start, five people from Papua New Guinea (PNG) were to arrive. Also we had homestay guests. Only Ashmita in the kitchen, I was wondering how I was going to feed everybody when Tevita informed me, “We’ll make an umu on Sunday.”
It is the Samoan version of a Fijian lovo. Kind of. The umu is the star of this blog – but first I’m going to pull out one part of the umu prep and show it separately
A NEW KIND OF COCONUT SQUEEZER
Tevita’s son was opening both ends of two feed bags.
And then he was packing it with freshly grated coconut.
And then he rolled it into a doughnut and hung it on a branch.
And then he SQUEEZED. Clockwise and counterclockwise – that coconut was squeezed dry. Unlike our shade-cloth-and-guava-stick squeezer – this one can be a One-Man Show.
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First off, the umu is above ground whereas the Fijian lovo is in a pit. (The Samoans do have a pit oven called something else, but they usually make the umu.)
So you see they have cement blocks and banana trunks in a big square holding the firewood. The cement blocks are removed before the firing starts.
As one person is getting the fire prepped, others are doing food prep. They carried my electric grater out to the “cantina” – where one person is opening coconuts and the other is grinding.
The fire is lit. You can see how tall they have piled the wood and coconut husks Volcanic rocks are on the top. And where some of the wood fell off, you see one of the boys using tongs made from a coconut frond to pick up the firebrands.
The fire is used for kitchen prep as well as cooking. Here is island-style tin foil – a banana leaf being softened on the fire.
Here is a prepped chicken sitting on one of the soft banana leaves that will be used to wrap it.
Tevita bought OCTOPUS for this meal! Man! Yum!
Here is the start of palusami. This is a standard dish in the Fijian lovo as well. Coconut cream, onions, and secret ingredients going into taro leaves.
The difference is that Samoan palusami is then wrapped in a banana leaf, and then wrapped in a breadfruit leaf. No tin foil. And it looks like a happy green heart.
Here is the line up of most of the food that was to go in the umu, and Junia behind it acting like a boss. The woven coconut leaf on the left has a whole barricuda. Three chickens with tin foil on top of the banana leaves. Two kitchen pots of octopus soup. Peeled cassava and taro. (There will be more.)
The fire has to be opened out. Those coconut frond tongs are back at work, picking off the big pieces of wood.
The perimeter is removed and the stone are spread out. The red hot stones.
The rocks and charcoal embers are teased so that all the rocks are on top.
And let the packing of the umu begin! First banana leaves and then the meat in the middle: 3 chickens and one fish.
And on it went until here at the top – now by flashlight. On the top are the palusami parcels – and now coconut shells, being filled with coconut and fish soup! You also see hot rocks on top of the cassava, becoming a middle layer.
Finally, a blanket of banana leaves. And now we wait.
But not so long, because those rocks are so hot. It is only 20 minutes or so!
Here is some of the cassava and the fish out of the umu, with two of the happy cooks.
And here is my plate.
“This looks like Thanksgiving dinner,” said our Australian-American guests. I completely agreed.
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FIJIAN WORD of the WEEK
Mamau means “full” or “sated”
Au sa mamau. “I’m full!”
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My Australian-American guests and I were totally blown away by Tevita, his little brother Fale (fah-lay), and his son Warren. How on earth do they pull this off? Well … we come to find out that Tevita opened a small resort in his village outside Apia several years ago. They frequently have 40 or more guests. I googled it. It looks WONDERFUL. My guests and I all plan to go there to see it live – and here is a link in case you are interested, too.
Matareva Beach Fales – https://www.matarevabeachfales.com/
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Happy week, everybody 🙂
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