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Global Feast : the Marshall Islands

Ocean to Table Meal on Bikirin Island
May 18, 2013

Bikirin Island, The Marshall Islands

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).

Fresh coconuts served in Bikirin Island, The Marshall Islands
cracking coconuts, Bikirin Island, The Marshall Islands
copra

The landowners and the family who lives and takes care of the island welcomed us with the fresh coconuts and coconut meat (copra).

Indoor bbq grill, Bikirin Island, The Marshall Islands
Fresh fish (still alive), Bikirin Island, The Marshall Islands fish and grill (Bikirin Island, The Marshall Islands)
getting ready to grill fish, Bikirin Island, The Marshall Islands
grilling fish, Bikirin Island, The Marshall Islands grilled fish Bikirin Island, The Marshall Islands

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.

Marshallese woman making basket with coconuts leaves
coconuts leave basket
coconuts leave basket
grilled fish, Bikirin Island, The Marshall Islands grilled fish in the coconut leave basket, Bikirin Island, The Marshall Islands

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).

cooking rice with coconut juice at back yard, Bikirin Island, The Marshall Islands coconut rice and bread fruits, Bikirin Island, The Marshall Islands

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.

boiled shell fish, Bikirin Island, The Marshall Islands
bread fruits and boiled shell fish, Bikirin Island, The Marshall Islands

They also caught a bunch of shellfish (like hermit crabs) and boiled them in sea water. And they roasted breadfruit from their yard.

island meal in basket with grilled fish, bread fruits, coconut rice and boiled shell fish, Bikirin Island, The Marshall Islands

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.