The Sepik is a wildly fertile part of PNG. Fish gleefully jump out of the water at the mere approach of a dugout canoe (to prove this, Josh, our guide, casually leaned out of the boat, stuck his hand in the water and immediately retrieved a fish. Small, but perfectly edible. Respect). Every family will have a “garden”, more akin to a small farm, where they grow staples (sago and bananas), but also a wide range of supporting fruit and veg – coconuts, peanuts, papaya, pineapple, potatoes – you name it, it probably grows here.
We were sort of expecting to eat whatever the locals ate – namely fish and sago together with whatever fresh veggies looked good that day. And we did get to try a sago pancake one day (perhaps as reward for having brought about 70kg of sago flour back to the village in our canoe), which was described with uncanny accuracy by our kind host Sara as “sort of like a biscuit, sort of like rubber”. Indeed. For the record, should you ever be presented with a rubber biscuit, they actually taste ok.
Anyway, as it turned out, we were eating two meals a day: breakfast of bread, jam and peanut butter; and dinner of tuna and noodles (sometimes with an egg mixed in – ooh the excitement!!). Quite why this was, we’re not sure – whether most westerners reaction to rubber biscuits is more negative than ours, whether they feel their local produce is somehow not up to standard, or whether they simply have no desire to eat tuna and noodles themselves, so foist it on us, I just don’t know.
Anyway, for those inclined, below some notes on achieving tuna’n’noodles perfection:
- Follow the noodle manufacturer’s instructions re cooking. They know their stuff. When they say 2 minutes, be guided by it. You’d be surprised by just how unpleasant 15 minute-cooked noodles can be
- 1 sachet of instant chicken flavouring between 2 portions of noodles is sufficient for this particular recipe. Two would just be crazy and may well provoke attention deficit disorder
- Spicy tuna is the only way to go here. Ordinary tuna just won’t cut it – in some sort of unforeseen emergency where you don’t have canned spicy tuna to hand, I guess you could improvise with chilli sauce
- Eggs, if added should be boiled not just cracked over the noodles and left to cook themselves….they’ll only really cook if using the 15 minute cooking time and then the whole thing forms a sort of congealed lump that you really should seek to avoid….
[As an aside, should you have no tuna (for example, when your expensive hotel in the Highlands refuse to serve you lunch and you have to break into the emergency noodles), you can easily make a tasty pad thai – just add a few leftover peanuts and some piri piri sauce. Tasty and exotic!]
Just follow these simple instructions and you’ll have such a feast on your hands that you’ll be eating it 3 days in a row! We did!!
Lucy – enjoying tuna and noodles, for the third time