Ocean to Table Meal on Bikirin Island
May 18, 2013
I visited the small island of Bikirin across the lagoon from Majuro. Bikirin (not to be confused with Bikini) is a small island in Majuro Atoll where there is a UNDP-funded conservation and restoration demonstration program (see project details here). The project's goal is to restore, conserve and protect the natural Bikirin Island habitat, land and coral reef biodiversity to help demonstrate ways of sustaining and strengthening the resilience of Majuro Atoll's small island ecosystems. Like elsewhere in the Marshall Islands, the shoreline on Bikirin is eroding due to sea level rise, sand mining and reef pollution. Little by little, critical tree species are lost and not replanted, reducing habitat, food production, cultural, medicinal and economic value. The project seeks to control pollution, coral damage, and overfishing on Bikirin's shorelines (read more on program website).
The landowners and the family who lives and takes care of the island welcomed us with the fresh coconuts and coconut meat (copra).
While we were touring the island, the caretakers made a fire in their indoor BBQ grill and brought in some freshly caught fish. The fish had just been pulled out of the water and were still alive and jumping on the ground.
The mother of the family put the live fish on the hot grill. The fish jumped on the hot grill and it was kind of hard to watch but that's how islanders cook fish - very fresh. They don't even bother to kill, scale or gut the fish. They told us that instead of putting salt or other seasonings, they keep their guts inside to provide flavor. This can be done only because the fish is so fresh.
While she was grilling, the cook started making some baskets with coconut leaves. When the guests arrive, it is usually a Marshallese custom to fill the basket with food and present it for the guests to eat and/or to take home (I wrote earlier about these gift baskets).
Aside from gilled fish, the family made many side dishes. They cooked rice with coconut water. The rice was so flavorful with coconut but not sweet at all. It tasted really great with the grilled fish.
They also caught a bunch of shellfish (like hermit crabs) and boiled them in sea water. And they roasted breadfruit from their yard.
So here it is. The beautiful island meal with everything they caught or grew on their island (except the rice). The freshest meal I have ever had in my life. A true farm (or ocean) to table meal.