Food Life

The Dish with No Name

This is perhaps, a standard Papua New Guinean dish. But as far as I know, it doesn’t have a name.

Wherever you go, the recipe is the same, with some variations depending on which part of the country you live in, or visit.

I’ve cooked this with many variations but the chicken and coconuts, onions and ginger are central to this recipe. So the preparation starts with grating the coconuts.

Ideally, the coconuts should be the small mature variety that has a good amount of oil in the meat.

My rule is, never use water unless absolutely necessary. All the water should come from the coconut itself. If the coconut is small, then you can add a little water to the coconut as you squeeze milk from the grated coconut.

Now, let me get to the chicken. For the best taste, the bird should be fresh. If you live in Papua New Guinea, farm birds are best. In fact there is a marked difference between the taste of frozen chicken and a fresh one. There is no hard and fast rule about how to cut the chicken. But I recommend that you keep the skin on as it complements the coconut milk during the cooking.

So have the coconut milk ready in a large pot and submerge the chicken pieces into the milk and place on medium heat. Add two large onions, a spoon sized piece of crushed ginger, and for colour add six cherry tomatoes. If you wish the flavour to be slightly hotter, add one or two red chilies.

What you add next will make or break you. If you can get vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and carrots, chop them up into bite sized pieces add them when the coconut milk starts to boil because that is when the chicken flavoured cream rises to the top.

It is important that you ensure that the vegetables do not lose their colour. Remove when the vegetables are soft. Papua New Guinean mothers are extremely critical of sons who “brown” green vegetables. So take extra care!

The chicken should be cooked through, within 20 minutes. Serve with boiled rice and potatoes.

The dish with no name.

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