Foods of Micronesia

The students in the ethnobotany class presented plant based foods of Micronesia. Sasha Santiago of Pohnpei led off with kirahka mwangas - local coconut candy.

The coconut candy was wrapped in a dried banana leaf.


Coconut (copra) is cooked with sugar until the sugar carmelizes. The darkness and hardness of the coconut candy varies with the length of cooking.

Copra carmelized sugar candy almost finished: a popular treat yet not sold here

Years ago a food scientist visited the ethnobotany class. He noted that he was not a nutritionist, his job was to make foods that make people want to spend money. He noted that it was food scientists who brought us sweetened milk chocolate. Coconut candy might not be a healthy choice, but among the unhealthy choices being made by the youth of the Federated States of Micronesia - ramen and Kool-Aid powder dipping mixes, daily consumption of soda, candy bars for lunch, coconut candy would not necessarily be the worst of the lot.


Brandon Taiwermal demonstrated a survival skill. As an outer islander of Yap state, there is some real risk that as the result of a mishap at sea one might wind up on an uninhabited atoll without a knife or other tools. Brandon demonstrated a way to obtain sustenance in this situation by eating the spongy material that forms inside the a sprouted coconut called feral.

Without tools, knives, or other implements, the coconut can be cracked and husked on a rock.

This is "found food" in the outer islands.

Tremay Esiel of Pohnpei presented mwahng erier/oarioar, a dish of hard taro and coconut milk.


Mitchell  Marino of Pohnpei presented katapwur en sawa or piahiah en sawa, a sweet potato dish. Pacific island sweet potato, Ipomea batatas, dishes are not often brought on food day. While sweet potatoes are grown and eaten in Micronesia, the name in the Pohnpeian dictionary, pedehde, is the English word "potato" and argues that the tuber was a post-western contact introduction and not an ancient food of Micronesia. Too, the name Mitchell used, katapwur en sawa (spelling katapwure?), means to roll or move while rotating soft taro. Sawa is soft taro, hence the name is a misnomer as the starch is not soft taro. The cooking process, however, is similar.


Mary-Ann Henry of Pohnpei presented presented kaimana piahiah where kaimana is a type of banana and piahiah is coconut milk.

Mary-Ann Henry

Lynnjella Seilo of Kuttu, Mortlocks, Chuuk, brought in eschaan, young soft copra in coconut juice.


Eshaan from Kuttu

Lienna Zarred of Oneop, Mortlocks, Chuuk, brought in mweal, a dish made with taro, coconut, and sugar. The addition of sugar to local dishes is a modern adaptation, perhaps especially for outer islanders where sugar cane was difficult to grow at best.

April Suzuki brought in a tapioca dish. Locally tapioca, or cassava (Manihot esculanta) is known as dapiohka, also kehp tuhke, menioak. The intent had been to cook the tapioca in coconut milk. April overcooked the coconut milk and discovered that the milk turned into coconut oil, which wound up sautéing the tapioca. The lack of a water based liquid resulted in a slightly firm tapioca with a faint undertone flavor of french fries fried in coconut oil. The result was technically not the dish she was trying to make, but quite tasty in any case. The round disks were a food that Raydeen Jim called "carved taro." She did not provide a local name for the dish.

April and Raydeen

This is the nature of the loss of a language: the food remains but the name may be lost.

Pounded boiled bananas are a favorite food here in Micronesia, with coconut milk added. Best served hot and fresh and locally known as uht sukusuk, presented here by Dannia Route in a traditional kiam and banana leaf container.

Yostrick Rosario brought the same dish. Note the difference the presentation can make in whether a dish is appealing to the eyes. Appearance matters in the culinary world.



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