Kiribati

Kiribati, pronounced ‘Kiribas’, is formed of 33 atolls and 1 island, across the equator in the Pacific Ocean, which are dispersed over 3.5 million sq km. It has been independent of the UK since 1979 and over half the population live on Tarawa atoll and South Tarawa is the capital. It was previously named the Gilbert Islands, after the British explorer Thomas Gilbert who found the islands in 1788 and it then became the Republic of Kiribati after independence.

It is home to the Phoenix Islands, the 2nd largest marine protected area in the world, after the Chagos Archipelago in the Maldives. Christmas Island, otherwise known as Kiritimati, is part of this island group and is the world’s largest coral atoll. Nuclear tests were conducted on and around Kiribati by the UK in the late 1950s, and by the US in 1962. During these tests islanders were not evacuated. Subsequently British, New Zealand, and Fijian servicemen, as well as local islanders have claimed to have suffered from exposure to the radiation from these blasts.

The native people of Kiribati are called I-Kiribati and they speak an Oceanic language called “Gilbertese”, although English is also an official language, it is not often used outside the island capital of Tarawa. It has the 3rd highest prevalence of smoking with 54% of the population reported as smokers.

When it comes to the cuisine of Kiribati, most commonly available ingredients include coconut, breadfruit, chinese cabbage, pumpkin, tomato, watermelon and cucumber. Rice and fish also form an important part of the diet. Palu sami (a coconut cream curry powder taro leave seaweed concoction) is a Kiribati specialty. I have to be honest and say that I struggled to find an authentic recipe and I sought help from a fellow round the world cook, Sasha Martin. I hope you don’t feel that I cheated when I tell you that I bought a cooked lobster, as I had to ‘deal’ with it in order to get to the tasty flesh! I made Lobster with coconut curry dip, which I served as a canapé.

Rating: 9/10

Serves: 4 as a canapé
Prep time: 30
Cook time: 10 mins

1 cooked lobster
1 400g tin coconut milk
2 tsp homemade spice mix
1 tsp honey

For the homemade spice mix
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/4 tsp cumin seed
1/8 tsp fennel seed
1/8 tsp cayenne
seeds from 2 cardamom pods
1 whole clove

For the spice mix
Toast the spices over a medium low heat until fragrant and you see a few wisps of smoke. This should only take a minute or two. Keep the spices moving so they do not burn.
Put them into a grinder or pestle and mortar and grind until smooth.

Prepare the lobster as per the instructions on the packet – ensuring you remove all the meat from the tail and claws.
Place the coconut milk into a pan over a medium heat and whisk in the spice mix. I added a tsp of honey to give a little bit of sweetness to the dip.
Serve hot with the lobster.

Kiribati_1990462bkiribati_map

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