New Guinean Cuisine

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New Guinea - Cooking and Food[edit]

Overview of New Guinean Cuisine History[edit]

The first inhabitants of New Guinea arrived at least around 40,000 years ago, having travelled through the south-east Asian peninsula. These first inhabitants, from whom the Papuan people are probably descended, adapted to the range of ecologies and in time developed one of the earliest known agricultures. Remains of this agricultural system, in the form of ancient irrigation systems in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, are being studied by archaeologists. This work is still in its early stages so there is still uncertainty as to precisely what crop was being grown, or when/where agriculture arose. Sugar cane was cultivated for the first time in New Guinea around 6000 B.C.

A central east-west mountain range dominates the geography of New Guinea, over 1600 km in total length. The western half of the island of New Guinea contains the highest mountains in Oceania, rising up to 4884 m high, and ensuring a steady supply of rain from the equatorial atmosphere. The tree line is around 4000 m elevation and the tallest peaks contain permanent equatorial glaciers — which have been retreating since at least 1936. Various other smaller mountain ranges occur both north and west of the central ranges. Except in high elevations, most areas possess a warm humid climate throughout the year, with some seasonal variation associated with the northeast monsoon season.

Another major habitat feature is the vast southern and northern lowlands. Stretching for hundreds of kilometres, these include lowland rainforests, extensive wetlands, savanna grasslands, and some of the largest expanses of mangrove forest in the world. The southern lowlands are the site of Lorentz National Park, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Sepik, Mamberamo, Fly, and Digul rivers are the island's major river systems that drain in roughly northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwest directions respectively. Many of these rivers have broad areas of meander and result in large areas of lakes and freshwater swamps.

New Guinea contains many of the world’s ecosystem types: glacial, alpine tundra, savanna, montane and lowland rainforest, mangroves, wetlands, lake and river ecosystems, seagrasses, and some of the richest coral reefs on the planet.

Cuisines of New Guinea[edit]

Traditional cuisine of Papua New Guinea is based on root crops such as taro, kaukau and yams, sago and pig (cooked in the earth on traditional feasts).

  • Mumu is a traditional dish combining roast pork, sweet potatoes, rice and greens.
  • Local fruits include pineapples, pawpaws, mangoes, passion fruit and bananas.

Staples include starchy vegetables (wild sago, breadfruit, yams, taro, sweet potatoes, and rice) complemented by wild greens, several varieties of bananas, and coconuts, mango, and other fruits. Domestication of animals and hunting provide fowl, pork, and meat from birds, marsupials, turtles, and cassowaries. In riverine and coastal areas, fish and shellfish may form a significant part of the diet. Villagers cook two meals a day, boiling or roasting the food. Earth ovens are dug on ceremonial grounds for special occasions. Leftovers, sugarcane, and coconut milk are consumed while people work in their gardens. Tea is drunk at all times. Urban restaurants provide international cuisine to those who can afford it. Kai bars (fast-food stands) are popular. Food taboos vary and are often temporary, as with restrictions on pregnant women and initiates. Others are totemic, involving plants or animals that are symbolic of kin groups. Still others are relational; for example, a son-in-law may not consume food in the presence of his mother-in-law.

Special Equipment for New Guinean Cooking[edit]

New Guinea is renowned for ceremonial occasions at which hundreds of pigs or other valuables are distributed to guests. Competitive feasting ("fighting with food") between big men and chiefs features oratory, dancing, singing, drumming, and feasting that go on for days, along with the payment of bride-prices and other exchanges. Special drinks were rarely part of such ceremonies in the past, but now beer and alcohol are often part of major exchanges. Papua New Guineans celebrate nontraditional holidays such as Christmas and Easter, but rarely with the exuberance or expense involved in a traditional feast.

People in New Guinean Food[edit]

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