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Food and Drink Life & Style

What’s Eaten Where: Niihau Island

whats eaten1

Owned by the Robinson family, Hawaii’s Niihau Island is another of the world’s Forbidden Places! Originally purchased in 1864 from the Kingdom of Hawaii for a mere $10,000, Niihau is off limits to the general public. In fact, only the descendants of the original buyer, their immediate relatives, US Navy personnel, government officials, and invited guests can visit!

At roughly 180 kilometres square, it’s the seventh largest inhabited island in Hawaii; home to 170 people according to the latest census. Water comes from rainfall (plumbing is utterly absent!); power is solar; and rent is free. And if you’re hungry, you grow it, raise it, or catch it…

The odd item is shipped in, but with no utilities or stores, fishing and farming are the main sources of food on Niihau. Seafood is a staple, with fresh fish a permanent fixture on the menu. But mutton is also popular: the first island inhabitants started a sheep ranch and, today, Niihau lamb is celebrated as one of the world’s best-tasting, free range meats thanks to pristine grazing and a varied diet.

whats eaten 2Eland is another gastronomic favourite. The largest of the antelope family, these African natives thrive on Niihau. Low in cholesterol, rich in nutrients, and with fewer than half the calories in beef, the local eland is enjoyed both fresh (grilled or roasted) and dried (salted and stored). And cattle abound so beef is also an option, appearing in soups, stews, and traditional feasts.

As far as the island’s individual dishes go, nobody has yet compiled a reliable recipe book! But it’s fairly safe to assume that traditional Hawai’ian fare is still going strong. Poi (pulverised, fermented taro root mixed into a paste and eaten either as a standalone breakfast dish or an accompaniment to heartier dinner dishes) is likely a favourite; so too poke – an age-old Native Hawaiian dish of diced raw fish served with sea salt, candlenut and seaweed.

And, this being Hawaii, there’s always exotic produce on the menu: local residents enjoy lychee, passion fruit, dragon fruit, star fruit, papaya and breadfruit fresh from the garden.

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