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Cook Islands - Cooking and Food Edit

Overview of Cook Islander Cuisine History Edit

[[Image:||right|thumb|]] Cook Islands are situated in the Central Pacific and they are made up of 15 small islands, not far from New Zealand. The vegetation on the islands is very rich and abundant in coconut palm trees. Besides agriculture, animal breeding, like pigs and cattle is very frequent, which is rather unusual, but benefic for an oceanic island.

The most significant aliments when discussing the Cook Islands` recipes are the fish and the vegetables. The staple aliment in the Cook Islands` cuisine is the fish. Fish is consumed in various ways, like roasted, grilled, raw and in soups or stews and there is a wide spectrum of edible and enjoyable fish species: Tuna (ahi), dolphin (mahi mahi), Parrot Fish (pakati), Barracuda (ono), coconut crabs and Crayfish. Besides these, there are the exotic fruits like papaya, mango, coconuts, bananas, citrus fruits, avocado and melon, which are used for the local breakfast and desserts, such as the grated coconut flesh for various cakes and tarts.

Cuisines of Cook Islands Edit

Map of Cook Islands

Map of Cook Islands - Click to enlarge

The Cook Islands are formed of 2 groups of islands: a Northern and a Southern group, which seem to have the same cuisine, with small differences. Rarotonga is one of the most representative islands (it is actually a volcanic island), with an exotic relief and a distinctive cuisine. In this region, the basic meals include the kai food, which is based on Chicken, fish and Pork, served with veggies, which are placed in an umu (dish) and then covered, so the food gets tender and soft. Due to the fact that this island is a touristy area, there is a wide range of international restaurants, like Chinese, Indian and Italian, but the New Zeeland influence is also very much felt. In the areas which are not that populated, people prefer to eat vegetable meals, like taro roots or maniota. The umukai is a very representative traditional custom that means dancing and cooking in an earth oven – this habit is spread in all the Cook Islands`.

Preparation Methods for Cook Islander Cooking Edit

Each traditional dish has a special cooking method, which is more or less general in all of Cook Islands’ regions. Cook Islands` cuisine uses elements from various cooking traditions borrowed from their neighbors and developed from their own traditional dishes. While there are no specific or unique preparation methods for Cook Islands` cooking, we should point out that attention to detail is important in the Cook Islands` cuisine. Using the right amount of spices for example is essential – either for spicing up the taste or for coloring the dish. The diversity of vegetables and cereals found in Cook Islands is also noticed in the delicious dishes belonging to their cuisine. The visual attractiveness of the dish is also important, and a balance between colors and proportion differentiates. Meat is one of the main elements of most Cook Islands` dishes and cured and smoked hams are often parts of delicious dishes.

Special Equipment for Cook Islander Cooking Edit

Essential utensils like serving spoons, spatulas, forks, turners, scrapers and tongs should be part of your cooking "arsenal". Ranging from cake pans, can openers, colanders, egg rings, poachers and holders, food dishers & portioners, food pans & food containers to other kitchen utensils, such as food scales, food scoops and fryer baskets & accessories, the Cook Islands` cuisine needs a diverse cooking equipment set in order to produce the most sophisticated Cook Islands` dishes. You should consider insulated food carriers if you are transporting the food and a full set of kitchen linens and uniforms if you wish to look like a pro. Here are a few other items that will come handy while cooking Cook Islands` food: juicers, kitchen knives, kitchen slicers, kitchen thermometers, measuring cups & measuring spoons, miscellaneous utensils, mixing bowls and skimmers & strainers.

Cook Islander Food Traditions and Festivals Edit

The Cook Islands` people celebrate Easter and Christmas, ANZAC Day, Queen’s Birthday in June, Rarotonga Gospel Day, Constitution Day in August 4 and Boxing Day. On these occasions the inhabitants of the islands consume traditional home made meals, like ika mata, which is a raw fish dish (the fish is marinated in lime juice, with tomatoes, onions and coconut cream), the mahi mahi ( a sort of dolphin dish), the pakati (Parrot Fish with lime sauce) and the tantalizing tropical fruits. An important thing when experiencing a traditional Cook Islands` celebration is the umukai, which involves both dancing and baking food on hot stones.

People in Cook Islander Food Edit

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Whether chefs are cooking dishes that go back in time for centuries or brand new, modern dishes, Cook Islands` chefs take pride in what they do, and this is readily noticeable in the unforgettable taste of their cooking. There are many chefs who creatively use the basic ingredients and cooking method for traditional Cook Islands` dishes and create original and delicious food variations. Cook Islands` chefs are passionate about their traditional dishes and they enjoy presenting them to foreigners who have never tasted them before.

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