Introduction: Coconut in Vanuatu cuisine
Coconut is an essential ingredient in Vanuatu cuisine as it is abundant in the islands. The versatile coconut is used extensively in cooking and as a condiment in Vanuatu dishes. Coconut cream, coconut milk, and grated coconut flesh are popular ingredients that give Vanuatu dishes a distinct flavor and a rich creamy texture. The coconut also plays an important cultural and economic role in the islands, where coconut products are used for medicinal purposes, traditional ceremonies, and crafts.
Cooking with coconut: Traditional methods
Cooking with coconut in Vanuatu involves traditional methods that have been passed down through generations. The most common method of extracting coconut cream and milk is by grating fresh coconut flesh and squeezing it with water. This creamy liquid is then used as a base for soups, curries, and stews. Another traditional method is by heating grated coconut flesh with water and squeezing it through a cloth to extract the milk. This method yields a thicker, richer coconut milk, which is used to make desserts and sweets.
Coconut oil is also extracted from fresh grated coconut flesh by heating it slowly until the oil separates. The oil is then used for cooking, as a skin moisturizer, and for medicinal purposes. The leftover grated coconut flesh, after the milk and oil have been extracted, is called ‘kopra’ and is used to make coconut chips, which are a popular snack in Vanuatu.
Popular coconut-based dishes in Vanuatu
Coconut is a key ingredient in many popular Vanuatu dishes. Lap lap is a traditional dish made by grating taro or yam, mixing it with coconut milk and meat, and wrapping it in banana leaves before cooking it over hot stones. Another popular dish is palusami, which is made with taro leaves, coconut cream, onion, and meat. The ingredients are wrapped in banana leaves and cooked until the leaves become tender and the filling is creamy.
Vanuatu also has a variety of desserts that use coconut as a primary ingredient. Coconut buns, also known as laplap, are made by mixing grated coconut with flour, sugar, and yeast. The dough is then rolled into balls and baked until golden brown. Coconut pudding, also known as Nifono, is made with coconut milk, sugar, and tapioca starch. The mixture is heated until it thickens, and then served chilled with grated coconut on top.
In conclusion, coconut plays a significant role in Vanuatu cuisine, where it is used in various forms to add flavor, texture, and nutrition to dishes. The traditional methods of extracting coconut cream, milk, and oil have been passed down through generations, and continue to be used in modern cooking. The popular coconut-based dishes in Vanuatu showcase the versatility and richness of this tropical ingredient, and are a must-try for any food lover visiting the islands.