Surprisingly good supper: Tokelauan sweet and sour fish

We mentioned last week that we’d never actually heard of Tokelau, the next country on our list. Some research was therefore required! We found out that this nation is actually a territory of New Zealand and has a land area of only 10km2. It’s therefore probably unsurprising that it doesn’t really seem to have a distinctive national dish. Despite quite a lot of Googling, the only thing we could find for a long time was a blogger trying to complete a similar challenge to ours, who said that there were no Tokelauan recipes to be found. Things were not looking good!

However, then we finally found a Tokelauan information publication, which included a recipe for sweet and sour fish. Now, like us, you might be thinking that that sounds more like a Chinese takeaway dish than one originating in the Pacific Islands, and you’re probably right. However, apparently the tourist market has brought a Chinese influence into the nation’s cuisine, and this recipe says it has been adapted to suit Tokelau and the ingredients available. Given the lack of other published recipes, this seemed about as close as we were going to get to a Tokelauan dish, so we decided to go for it. The quantities in the recipe were very approximate, so here is what we used.

Sweet and sour fish

Ingredients
550g coley (or other firm white fish), cut into large cubes
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
1 small tin of pineapple slices, drained
2 tbsp sugar
A good squirt of tomato puree (1-2 tbsp?)
About 1 tbsp of tomato ketchup
Cornflour
Cooking oil
Salt (not in the original recipe but we thought it needed it)

Method
1. Season the cornflour and use it to coat the fish. (We didn’t add the salt until later, once we’d tasted it, but in hindsight would add it here.)
2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the fish in batches until nicely browned. (The recipe said deep fry; we shallow fried. It’s probably a matter of preference.) When cooked, place in a bowl on the side.
3. Chop the pineapple and fry in the same pan until soft. Add the tomato puree, tomato ketchup and sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Let it boil for 3-4 minutes.
4. Add the frozen vegetables, stir, and cook for 3 minutes or until heated through.
5. Return the fish to the pan and mix through.
6. Serve with rice.
Serves 2 generously or could stretch to 3.

Fish

Sweet and sour sauce beginnings

Sweet and sour fish

Sweet and sour fish

If we’re honest, we weren’t really looking forward to eating this. Neither of us likes Chinese sweet and sour, so we wouldn’t have opted to cook it ourselves if we’d had more of a choice. However, we were pleasantly surprised. Considering the lack of fresh ingredients, it didn’t taste artificial like the takeaway version (despite the unmistakeable luminescent red hue of the sauce at the start of cooking), and although it was more sweet than sour, it actually wasn’t too overpowering. Shallow frying the fish gave it enough of a crispy coating for our tastes, but if you like the unidentifiable balls that you get with a Chinese takeaway, deep frying as per the original recipe might be for you.

Another major bonus of this dish was that it was very quick and easy to make – although we would recommend getting your fishmonger to remove all scales and bones from your piece of fish if you want it to be even quicker than it was for us…

Next up is Samoa. We were slightly concerned that Samoan food would be the same as American Samoan food, and it pretty much is, but we have already found the recipe that we are going to cook and it’s definitely not the same as our paifala. Stay tuned – although not next weekend because we’re off to Amsterdam, woohoo!

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