One of my great joys in life when traveling internationally is taking the opportunity to experience food as it was traditionally prepared. As a rule, I find something both different and memorable. I have been in the Cook Islands for less than two days when a traditional food opportunity presented itself.
While on Tangaroa’s “Safari” tour I had the chance to sample a meal made in a traditional umu. An umu is sort of a barbecue in the earth, wrapped in banana leaves and set to slow cook for several hours. In this case, chicken, beef, spinach casserole (for lack of a better description), taro root, and sweet potato roasted buried beneath banana leaves and dirt while I was led about Rarotonga in a jeep through back roads exploring Cook Island history, Maori tradition, incredible island views, and a water fall.
After several hours, I returned to a complete feast including a tuna sashimi salad (for lack of a better description) and raro juice (passion fruit juice) to wash the umu baked meal down. In a word, delicious.
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