Potent Recipes From A Pacific Island Food Revolution

Rene Richardson’s Niuean-style Ota. Photo / Supplied

Chefs serve up revelatory recipes in an inspiring cookbook.

A striking new release, Eat Pacific: The Pacific Island Food Revolution Cookbook presents a bold vision for food, collecting an array of different recipes while also sharing the diversity and common threads of dishes across the moana.

It’s a “homage to culture, regional tastes and culinary innovation,” writes Princess Salote Mafileʻo Pilolevu Tuita of Tonga in the foreword, and the book captures the past and present of food in the region — from shared ingredients that have helped define the concept of Pacific Island food, to diverse variations and traditions, contemporary iterations and wide-ranging influences alike.

There’s Rene Richardson’s magnificent Niuean-style ota (raw fish in coconut cream); Tino Suifaatau and Teuila Suifaatau have shared the recipe for a vibrant green banana curry; and for an aromatic julum achar (pickle) you can’t go past the iteration from Rachel Beryl Temo and Akuila Naiova — all of which you’ll find below.

Elsewhere in Eat Pacific, which spans Polynesian and Micronesian cuisine, there’s everything from Fijian vakasakera, to Ni-Vanuatu simboro and cream of laupele soup from Sāmoa, as well as a comprehensive glossary of ingredients.

It’s all thoughtfully edited by Robert Oliver, who grew up in Fiji, and the book is an offshoot of television series Pacific Island Food Revolution. The movement of the same name is, Oliver writes, a food justice movement — reviving, protecting and nurturing localised food networks and knowledge.

Whether you’re steeped in Pacific food knowledge already, or keen to expand your palate, these recipes are a good place to start.


Chefs: Tino Suifaatau and Teuila Suifaatau

Serves 10

Tino and Teuila bring a great deal of love and pride to the meals they prepare; this simple green banana curry is undoubtedly one of them. Tino loves blending different styles, and he has cleverly done so in this dish, using protein-rich bananas and exciting spices.

1 teaspoon vinegar or milk

10 green bananas

1 Tbsp virgin coconut oil 1 medium onion, sliced

2–3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 thumb-sized piece ginger, grated

2 tsp curry powder

1 cup coconut cream

1/4 cup coconut juice from a green coconut (suā popo)

1 handful coriander, finely chopped

Salt and pepper

Lime wedges
  1. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and add the vinegar or milk. Trim the stalk ends of the bananas and put them, skin on, into the boiling water. After 10–15 minutes the skin should start to split, which means they are cooked. Take out of the water and drain. Peel them when they are cool enough to handle.
  2. Chop the cooked bananas into coins about 2 centimetres thick and set them aside in a medium-sized bowl
  3. Heat a frying pan, add the coconut oil and sweat the onion, garlic and ginger. Add the curry powder and sauté to bring out the flavours.
  4. Add the banana to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, stirring to combine.
  5. Add the coconut cream and bring to the boil, then add the coconut juice and bring to the boil again.
  6. Gently fold in the coriander. Season with salt and pepper, and squeeze lime juice over for flavour. It’s now ready to serve!

Chefs: Rachel Beryl Temo and Akuila Naiova

Makes 2-3 jars

We’re all quite familiar with green mango achar, but I’d never had this combination of eggplant and pineapple — and it really works. The softness of the eggplant is a terrific counterpoint to the acidic sweet crunch of the pineapple. It’s best to let it ‘marinate’ for a week or so and then keep it in the fridge once opened.

4 tsp cumin seeds

4 tsp mustard seeds

4 tsp methi (fenugreek seeds)

4 tsp hot masala powder

1 litre mustard oil

1 small onion, diced

1 thumb-sized piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1/4 cup Jungly (wild) chillies, pounded

1 tsp salt, or to taste

2 cups thinly sliced eggplant (5-centimetre lengths)

2 cups thinly sliced green maqo (mango; 5-centimetre lengths)

2 cups thinly sliced pineapple (5-centimetre lengths)
  1. Preheat a pan over a medium heat and roast the cumin seeds, mustard seeds and methi until aromatic. Grind the spices to a coarse powder and add the masala. Tip out onto a plate and set aside.
  2. Place 3 tablespoons of the mustard oil in the hot pan, then add the onion, ginger, garlic and chillies.
  3. Sauté till well cooked, then add the roasted spices, stir to make into a paste and remove from the pan to a bowl. Season with salt and set aside.
  4. Place 2 tablespoons of the mustard oil in the same pan, add the eggplant and fry for 3 minutes. Tip into a dish and set aside.
  5. Using another 2 tablespoons of mustard oil, fry the green mango in the same pan for 3 minutes. Set aside in a separate bowl.
  6. Using a further 2 tablespoons of the mustard oil, again in the same pan, fry the pineapple for 3 minutes and tip into another bowl.
  7. In clean jars, layer the spice mix with the pineapple, mango and eggplant until full, keeping the layers clearly visible. Top with mustard oil to cover before putting the lids on tightly.

Can be stored for 4–6 months.



Chef: Rene Richardson

Serves 4

Every Nieuan family has their version of ota, all professing to be ‘the best’. Things can be quite competitive when it comes to ota. Some recipes have been in the family forever. Niueans can be very critical of ota if you are new to making it or changing it in any way.

500g freshly caught wahoo or whitefleshed fish

Juice of 2 limes

1–2 medium-hot chillies, finely sliced

Salt and pepper

2 medium tomatoes, flesh removed and diced

1 small cucumber, peeled, deseeded and diced

1 bunch spring onions, finely diced

2 cups fresh coconut cream or a 400-gram can (enough to cover the ota)
  1. Slice the fish into cubes (not too small). Place the cubes in a glass or ceramic bowl.
  2. Add the lime juice, chillies and salt and pepper and stir to combine.
  3. Add the tomatoes, cucumber and spring onions to the fish mixture in the bowl straight away.
  4. Mix in the coconut cream and season to taste.
  5. Chill for 1 hour before serving.

Here are some tips:

  • Use only fresh fish.
  • Don’t over-marinate in citrus.
  • Eat soon after chilling and before the coconut cream solidifies.
  • In Niue, vegetables are added to the fish mixture straight away, so the fish doesn’t get too ‘cooked’.
Embargoed: June 14 - Recipes from Eat Pacific: The Pacific Island Food Revolution edited by Robert Oliver. Published by Massey University Press, $60
Embargoed: June 14 - Recipes from Eat Pacific: The Pacific Island Food Revolution edited by Robert Oliver. Published by Massey University Press, $60

Recipes from Eat Pacific: The Pacific Island Food Revolution edited by Robert Oliver. Published by Massey University Press, $60, out now.

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