Peace Corps Writers
Eco-Bore Takes the Good Old Days Back to Tonga (page 3)

Eco-Bore Takes the Good Old Days Back to Tonga

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     Before church I got to watch every step of the ritual of the ‘umu, the underground oven, at ‘Ana’s home. I’d never seen such a labor-intensive task, but since I wasn’t among the laborers but did get to eat what came of it, I can say it was worth all the effort and art, and it was one hundred percent natural (if you don’t count the cans of corned beef) and nothing was wasted.
     Here’s the recipe for an ‘Umu Casserole

Preparation Time:
All morning before church on Sunday.

Serves: 50 palangis (non-Tongans) or 15 Tongans. (I should add that I’m a Tongan in this case.)

Banana leaves
Taro leaves
Volcanic rocks
Mackerel (or corned beef, beef, chicken or nothing)
Chopped onion
Coconut cream

Prepare the 'Umu: Dig a two-foot hole. Put firewood in the bottom of the pit (smaller pieces in the bottom and larger pieces on top. Wood used must be hardwood, otherwise the stones will not heat properly.) Once fire is well lit, put volcanic rocks on top. (Too many and the food will burn to a cinder and too few will mean uncooked food.)

Make 'Umu dishes (for food packages): Clean and de-rib banana leaves. Soften banana leaves by warming them over the fire.

Assemble food packages: Place taro leaves on each banana leaf.
Add about 1 1/
2 cup of canned mackerel or other filling (corned beef, fresh fish, beef, chicken, etc).
Add chopped onion and coconut cream.
Sprinkle with salt.
Wrap up taro and banana leaves.
Secure with a rib of banana leaf.
Identify with aluminum or other marker.

Once firewood burns down and stones are white hot, remove remaining big pieces of wood from the pit, and spread stones evenly on the bottom and sides of the pit.

Put taro, breadfruit, and yams on top of stones. 
Put thin pieces of wood on top of food to ensure air circulation.
Put in food packages on top of these pieces of wood. 
Cover with banana leaves.
Cover banana leaves with a flour sack or blanket. 
Cover with dirt. Let bake 1/
2 hour.
Serve after church.

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