Friday, January 28, 2011

this week.... Me'akai Tonga! aka Tongan Food!

I blinked and another week passed.  I don’t know how this keeps happening.  This speedy week will be accompanied by a speedy journal entry.  In my last entry, I promised to talk a little more about Tongan foods.  So…here we go!  A huge staple in the diets of many Tongans are root crops.  Taro, Yams, and Kumala [which are very similar to our sweet potatoes] are served with essentially every meal.  Breadfruit is also a delicious starchy treat!  All of the above can be dipped in ketchup which is quite popular here. 
As we’re in an island nation, fish are a pretty popular source of food as well.  My Tongan host father was a fisherman so I got fish a lot during my homestay experience.  In one of my pictures, you can see my homestay dad suited up in his diving gear.  Often, a few men from our village would go out and dive at night with flashlights.  Come morning, they’d return with lots of fish, a few crabs, or a lobster if it was a really great night!  Luckily, my homestay mom was a great cook!  One of my favorite meals thus far has been her baked fish with hopa.  Hopa is a type of banana.  They taste pretty similar, but look a bit different. If a banana is the tall, skinny sibling; then hopa is the short, stout little brother.  As far as other sea foods are concerned, I’ve tried octopus and raw fish soup and I just discovered today that people eat jellyfish here!
Aside from fish, Tongans eat many meats similar to Americans.  They love puaka [pork], pulu [beef], and moa [chicken].  The big difference, I suppose, is that in the U.S. we go to the supermarket for our delightfully pre-sliced honey ham.  A few hours before a feast in Tonga, I see one of my neighbors carrying a squealing pig down the street, which then becomes dinner!  Surprisingly, hot dogs are also very, very popular here.  Sometimes during homestay, my dear Tongan mom would prepare a giant meal for me and then add a few hot dogs as an afterthought.  Yes.  Of course I need 4 hot dogs along with the 4 sandwiches and 2 fish you’ve just served me! Oiaue! [that’s Tongan for Holy Moly or Oh my Goodness!]
Also, everyone loves Ramen Noodles!  Here the packs are different brands and are called ‘nutolo.’  They are quite the staple.  A lot of the time, people don’t even prepare the noodles!  They crunch up the bag and eat ramen noodles like potato chips; Tongans and Peace Corps Volunteers alike. However, I haven’t jumped on this band wagon quite yet. 
Most families have a special Sunday ‘Lu’ after church.  ‘Lu’ leaves are the leaves of the taro plant.  Sunday ‘lu’ consists of Lu leaves wrapped around some type of meat [fish, chicken, lamb, or corned beef usually] with a coconut milk sauce.  The ‘Lu’ is baked in an ‘umu’ which is a traditional underground oven.  Ifo ‘aupito! [aka delicious]
As you might expect, fruit is plentiful here!  In Vava’u, where I live, pineapple is in season all year [wahooo!].  People also eat a lot of papaya, bananas, mangos and various other fruits which I had never heard of before coming to Tonga.  There is a delicious drink called ‘vai siaine’ [literally banana water] which consists of boiling sliced bananas, water, and coconut milk. 

In other notes, school officially starts this Monday!  Yikes! I am excited, nervous, name an emotion, I might be feelin' it. :)

Have a wonderful week America. Toki Sio from Tonga!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Nora!
    Sounds like life is going well for you. We are so very happy that your host family and new friends are looking out for you. I can only imagine what it would be like to be on my own in a new home - in a different country. You are very brave! It sounds like you are enjoying your journey. Keep in touch and be safe. You are in our prayers! We love you!
    Aunt Dee