Labouring and layering: Papua New Guinean mumu

Normally we start these blog posts with a little preamble about the dish we’ve made, or the country it’s from, or a completely irrelevant story that we somehow manage to tenuously tie in to the meal we’ve just eaten. Today, however, we’re struggling with that task. The dish, mumu, is little more than layers of stuff cooked for an hour or so, and there’s not much more to say than that. We’ve never been to Papua New Guinea, so don’t have any charming travel anecdotes. And irrelevant stories usually require something interesting to have happened, and our lives recently have looked something like this:
Ash: Work.
Miranda: Sitting around the house for FOUR DAYS, unable to leave, due to the repeatedly broken promises of Parcel Force who said they would definitely deliver the package we were expecting. And whilst stories about dusting, vacuuming, choosing a new suitcase on Amazon and clearing our Sky+ box of 30-odd recorded episodes of Seinfeld would most certainly be irrelevant, they wouldn’t be ever so entertaining.

With that in mind, our exotic Papua New Guinean cooking experiment should have been very exciting indeed. Of course, it would have been more exciting had we been able to cook our mumu in its traditional form (in other words, under hot stones in an earth oven, which is actually what the word ‘mumu’ refers to), so that kicked off the disappointment for us. And, honestly, it pretty much continued from there. There’s a possibility this is our fault, as we ignored the recipe’s vague instructions to ‘add herbs and spices according to your taste’, but we found this dish a little bland. Having said that, it was incredibly easy and the flavours that were there were well balanced. We referred to recipes from The Fair Trade Cook Book and What’s Cooking in your World?, but the tradition of mumu says that you can pretty much use whatever you want as long as you follow the basic formula. What we used is below. Continue reading

Adobo a go-go: Filipino chicken adobo

Next on our whistle-stop tour of four countries in two weeks was the Philippines, a small Pacific island nation and one with a cuisine we knew literally nothing about. A search for ‘Philippines national dish’ initially suggested that we should make adobo, which bears no resemblance to the Mexican sauce of the same name but instead involves marinating meat (chicken or pork) overnight in a liquid consisting mostly of vinegar before poaching and frying it.

However, a little more reading revealed that adobo is in fact the ‘unofficial’ national dish, and there was actually a campaign in 2014 to make lechon, or spit-roasted pig, the official national dish. Filipino swine producers were apparently all for this, but the chicken industry was keen to dub both dishes ‘co-national’. In response to the proposed bill, a petition was launched to raise adobo’s national dish status to official. We don’t actually know what the result of all this was, but we don’t need to: any country with so much pride in its food simply deserved our close attention to its recipes!

In the end, our choice between adobo and lechon was easy. Much as cooking a spit-roasted pig would have made Ash’s year (yes, he is getting married in a month… your point?), we simply don’t have the equipment to get the pig home from the butcher, let alone cook it. So chicken adobo it was. Recipes varied somewhat depending on where we looked, but we used one from The Splendid Table – we just eliminated the tomatoes as no other recipe included them, and one of the comments on The Splendid Table even said that it was strange. Our version is below. Continue reading

Bruneian black pepper beef: Daging masak lada hiram

Hot on the heels of our East Timorese meal came a search for a traditional Bruneian meal. The only things we really knew about Brunei Darussalam were that it has a famously rich sultan, and it has its own airline and quite possibly the tiniest international airport in the world, discovered by Miranda during a stopover on a Royal Brunei flight in 2008: not the most entertaining four hours of her life.

Two other things we’ve learnt about Brunei over the past few days are:
1. Options for traditional meals are limited (it has only been an independent country since 1984, after all)
2. Recipes for those limited options don’t exist online in English

So planning Thursday night’s dinner was a bit of a game! Thanks to the wonders of Google Translate, though, we managed to splice together a few recipes for daging masak lada hiram, which translates to ‘black pepper beef cook’. This did involve coming up with our own creative interpretations for ingredients like ‘onion shredded holland’ or the preparation technique of ‘crop participate like’, as well as having to guess which recipe for black pepper sauce we should use, but we think we’ve come up with something passable. Whether it even slightly resembles the Bruneian version is unknown, but we present to you Black Pepper Beef Cook a la Mash… Continue reading

Trouting about: East Timorese ikan pepes

Our ‘to do’ list for these two weeks looks like this:
1. Get everything organised for Wedding #1
2. Make a lot of headway on organising Wedding #2
3. Cook meals from four different countries so that we’re up to Australia when we’re actually in Australia

Good thing Miranda’s on holidays from work and can basically spend all day doing these things! How people with real jobs (i.e. non-teachers) get anything done is a mystery. And good thing we cooked an East Timorese dish on Wednesday, so now we’re down to just three countries. It would have been even easier if the following hadn’t happened at the fishmonger:

Miranda enters fishmonger looking for red snapper, finds it, but decides it’s too big to fit in the pots we have, so looks for a suitable alternative…
Fish man: Can I help you?
Miranda: I wanted red snapper, but this one is too big.
Fish man: What about this smaller one?
Miranda: No, it’s still too big, really. Do you have a similar fish?
Fish man: Um…. (looks around helplessly) We have this yellow tail snapper?
Miranda: Is that similar to red snapper then?
Fish man: Well, I don’t know, but it has the same name… Continue reading