Friday, August 29, 2014

A Tongan Welcome

Saturday afternoon we arrived in Tonga, the only Polynesian kingdom that escaped colonization. We immediately jumped on a plane to Vava'u, its northern most group of islands.

Sunday in Tonga is the sabbath, closely observed by most if not all residents. Businesses are closed and churches are full with gospel choirs singing the glory of Jesus in their native tongue. Afterward, families feast on roast suckling pig, fritters, whole grilled red snapper and curried chicken dishes. We celebrated the day by sleeping in late and then attending a feast at Tonga's one and only botanical garden.

Fresh coconuts in hand and plates full of delicious food. What's not to smile about?

The owner and originater of the gardens is a smiling Tongan man who turned 68 last Friday. After living in Hawaii where he married and had three daughters, he returned to Tonga some twenty years ago to remarry and now has three young boys with his Tongan wife. His wife and eldest son cooked up quite the spread with a wide variety of local dishes, including kava fritters (like yams), bananas in curry, corned beef wrapped in grape-like leaves, suckling pig, grilled fish, chicken curry and fried fish cakes with papaya chutney. We finished off the delicious meal with two kinds of cake (chocolate and coconut) iced with coconut frosting.

The feast, clockwise from top: corned beef wrapped in a leaf, suckling pig, fish cake with papaya chutney, cabbage salad, grilled mussels in coconut cream, banana in coconut cream, kava in coconut cream, kava fritters, grilled snapper, banana curry, and chicken curry.

My cake plate, left to right: fish cake with papaya chutney,, coconut cake with coconut frosting, and chocolate cake with coconut frosting. Just because fish cake isn't for dessert, doesn't mean it shouldn't be on my cake plate!

After the feast, Josh and I wandered the narrow beach protected from the ocean by a shallow reef. We spied black spiny sea stars waving their tentacles in the 3" deep water and found a tiny hermit crab in the sand. It was a beautiful, albeit windy, day and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.


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