5.277 Local Lunch!

Cycle 5 – Item 277

9 (Thu) October 2014

Local Lunch!


from Hodava Hotel

at WHO Country Office

-Hohola North, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea-

with NDOH staff

Mission to Papua New Guinea (Day 7)

In Port Moresby.  Here to provide technical/legal support to the National Department of Health in updating their tobacco legislation, which hasn’t been touched since 1987 – nice work if you can get it.  Uncertain, however, about dining prospects for the week.

(CAL left for Moscow yesterday.)


Dietary habits in the Pacific have changed dramatically in recent decades, lots of fatty meats (e.g., corned beef) and processed grains (e.g., instant noodles), resulting in 75% adult obesity prevalence.


Restaurants in this country, at least the expat-friendly restaurants that I would have access to, don’t serve local fare.  That’s why I haven’t had a single bite of anything local in the 15 meals that I’ve eaten since arriving last weekend.  (I found the same to be true in Fiji.)  From what I’ve been able to piece together, the reason is three-fold: first, Pacific Islanders don’t eat out very often, the very concept of a restaurant being foreign to the culture; second, on the rare occasion that they do, they’d rather eat something different than what they’d get at home; and third, the inherent simplicity of the local fare doesn’t really lend itself to being developed into a restaurant menu.

In heed of my constant grumbling about being unable to eat local, my new best friends in NDOH arranged for a proper Papua New Guinean lunch.  They requested the kitchen in Hodava Hotel, where we’ve been working for the past three days, to prepare a full spread of local goodies.  Individually packed, the food was delivered to us at the WHO Country Office.

The portion was enormous, all this for one person (this also contributes to the obesity) – I could only finish about a third.

The food was okay.  It consisted of root vegetables, including sweet potato, yam, casava, pitpit, and taro, plus tomato and banana and some kind of green cabbage, and a chunk of tuna, all steamed, lightly seasoned in coconut milk.  Not much flavor, aside from the inherent flavors of the ingredients, which is a good thing, I suppose.  The experience was more about varying degrees of mushiness.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed the meal immensely, privileged to get a rare glimpse into the real culture here.


With CAL gone, I elected to check out of Laguna yesterday and relocate to the Holiday Inn.  It’s located across the street from WHO, even though I’m still required to travel, just crossing the street, in the official vehicle.  About $100 more per night – everything in PNG is extremely expensive – but with the savings on internet, I may end up saving money.

Maybe the best part is that the place has guests, so it feels alive.  In the evenings, the pool and poolside bar are buzzing with the sound of people – living in Manila these days, I’ve grown dependent on buzz.

My birthday is December 28; when DJ was born, on July 15, a couple weeks premature, I was in Boston at the time, staying with my friend HSK, whose apartment number was 715.
Not as nice as Laguna, but much more comfortable.
That’s “Scotch” (not really), bottled in PNG, another addition to my growing collection of whiskies from around the world.

I had dinner in the hotel restaurant.  While the menu didn’t offer anything authentically local, it did at least have a fish dish that could have been partly inspired by tradition, especially the coconut topping.  Reminded me of something that I had in Fiji, also on my final evening in country (see generally 5.180 Mahi Mahi with Snake Beans in Lolo Sauce).  This sort of modernization may be the way to get more Pacific Islander cuisine on restaurant menus.

(See also BOOZE)



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