The Kingdom of Tonga is an archipelago of 169 islands in the Pacific Ocean and 36 of the islands are inhabited. Spread over 500 miles from north to south, there are 3 main island groups – Vava’u, Ha’apai, and Tongatapu. 70% of the population living on the main island of Tongatapu. Tonga became a constitutional monarchy in 1875 and remains the only monarchy in the Pacific. King Tupou VI has reigned since 18 March 2012.
Rugby union is the national sport and they are very proud of the national team known as the Sea Eagles. Like New Zealand, Tonga performs a war-like dance before matches called the “Sipi Tau”.
Tourism is the 2nd largest source of Tongan earnings with 45,000 visitors in 2013. Highlights include Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon (the South Pacific’s stonehenge), St Joseph’s Cathedral, Mapu’a ‘a Vaea Blowholes, Ha’atafu Beach and ‘Anahulu Cave.
Tongan cuisine features taro, yams, bananas, coconuts, and fish baked in leaves. Traditionally they would have eaten one meal at lunchtime each day that had been cooked in an ‘umu’ (earth oven). Nowadays they have adopted a more western meal schedule of breakfast, light lunch and dinner. Some Tongan dishes include Faikakai topai (dumplings in sweet coconut syrup), Lo’I Feke (Octopus in coconut cream) , Lū sipi (taro leaves with lamb), Kapisi Pulu (cabbage and corned beef in coconut cream) , Keke Vai with Banana (Banana Pancakes) and Oka Ita (Tongan ceviche). I opted to make coconut bread which was a little crumbly but quite tasty.
Makes: 8 – 10 slices
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 & ½ cup coconut milk
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp scraped vanilla bean
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
Mix flour, baking soda, salt and grated coconut in a bowl
Whisk egg, add sugar, vanilla and coconut milk and mix well
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix well
Pour into greased loaf tin
Bake for 1 hour and remove from the tin to a cooling rack