18 July, 2021
Delicious raw fish PNG style
MACKAY has a large population of Pacific Islanders and, back in the islands, fish is a staple food. In the coastal areas of Papua New Guinea, a popular way to cook fish is to “burn” it. This simply means to throw the fresh, whole fish – unbled, with scales and guts intact – onto an open fire and pull it out when the skin is black and charred.
MACKAY has a large population of Pacific Islanders and, back in the islands, fish is a staple food. In the coastal areas of Papua New Guinea, a popular way to cook fish is to “burn” it.
This simply means to throw the fresh, whole fish – unbled, with scales and guts intact – onto an open fire and pull it out when the skin is black and charred.
This may sound somewhat crude to delicate Western ears but it is a simple and effective cooking method. The flesh comes out tender, juicy and delicious.
It’s eaten piping hot with the fingers, no condiments or Michelin stars needed. In PNG, most meals are accompanied by root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, yams or taro, though in recent years rice is taking over in popularity.
Some Papua New Guineans say that, if there is no rice in a meal, they cannot feel full. Another way to enjoy fish in PNG is to make Kokoda Fish, though this is found mainly in hotels and restaurants. (In my 20 or so years living in PNG, I never encountered this way of eating fish in any village I visited.) It is apparently borrowed from a Fiji recipe.
Kokoda Fish is a raw dish with the fish “cooked” in lemon or lime juice. Coconuts are abundant in PNG and no excuse is needed to add freshly prepared coconut cream to a dish. And this addition is what makes Kokoda Fish different from the Fiji recipe. Kokoda Fish, like most PNG recipes, is simple to prepare. Any type of white-meat ocean fish can be used, with the abundant red emperor being a favourite in PNG. The ingredients and process are simple.
Cut up half a kilo of your favoured fish fillets into bite-sized chunks, put them in a bowl and pour around half a cup of either lime or lemon juice over them. Leave to marinate in the fridge for around six hours so the juice turns the flesh white.
When the flesh is ready, drain the juice and keep it handy. Then add a finely chopped onion, a couple of roughly chopped and deseeded tomatoes, and some diced capsicum. Add chilli and coriander to taste. Throw in a cup of freshly squeezed coconut milk – tinned coconut milk is fine.
Then add about half a cup of the reserved citrus liquid. Mix well, add salt and pepper to taste.
GUTPLA KAIKAI STRET!