Chef Julz Henao and Australian High Commissioner Jon Philp recently joined Papua New Guinean volunteers from the High Commission to prepare and taste traditional dishes from PNG’s four regions to celebrate Independence Day.
After some taste testing, the team delivered the dishes to Cheshire Homes in Hohola, where more than 30 people living with disabilities and staff gathered for an Independence Day feast.
In true PNG style, all four dishes featured coconuts (and lots of scraping).
Representing the Highlands region, Willie Koi prepared a Western Highlands Mumu, cooking a whole pig marinated in ginger, garlic, onion, carrots and green fern in coconut milk.
For the Momase region, Michelle Alung-Megiarni and Josephine Barrum prepared Nangu, a sago dish served with smoked fish and greens in coconut milk.
The Southern region’s Delsia Sariman prepared Rabia Irara, a coconut creamed trevally in sago.
Finally, Charmaine Sialis-Misiliu represented the New Guinea Islands, using heated stones to make an Aigir of chicken, aibika leaves, capsicum, bananas, and you guessed it… coconut!
High Commissioner Philp enjoyed all of the dishes prepared so much he could not pick a favourite.
“Papua New Guinea is the land of a thousand tribes. What better way to recognise that than to celebrate the food of Papua New Guinea.
We know that every island, every valley, every province, every tribe has their own special food, and their own way of cooking things” he said.
The High Commissioner even tried his hand at some of the steps in the cooking process but noted there was some room for improvement.
“Clearly, I need to build my skills a bit more before I can make a perfect saksak dumpling ball like Josephine, but I’ll get there.”
High Commissioner Philp thanked Chef Julz for coming along to help out on the day.
“Our volunteer cooks from the High Commission worked very closely with Julz Henao, an amazing chef who has worked very hard to help educate the people of PNG about healthy eating, something that’s very important to us in Australia as well.”
Chef Julz is currently working on the Eat Smart campaign, a nutrition education program for PNG.
“The Eat Smart Campaign is the first of its kind in PNG. We’ve travelled to the regions and met some amazing farmers, and we’re going to be sharing nutritional education with the next generation of Papua New Guineans and school kids,” he said.
Chef Julz said he was inspired by each of the local cooks, and the way they incorporated new cooking methods into traditional dishes.
He was also proud to be able to share the healthy meals with the Cheshire Homes community.
“It was really special to come to Cheshire Homes and share that moment with our fellow Papua New Guineans. Just to serve some food and sit around and talk while the community ate their Independence Day meal was
very rewarding,” said Chef Julz.
To conclude the event, High Commissioner Philp wished all Papua New Guineans a happy Independence Day with their families and friends.