Sago, West Papua Traditional Culinary

There are two types of staple food in West Papua. Sago, mostly consumed by Papuans in coastal areas: Biak, Serui, Jayapura, Merauke, etc. People don’t normally grow sago as they grow wild all over the coastal areas. Normally people do not work hard here, fish is available, pork and others are in the jungles, and sago grows everywhere.

Sweet Potato, we who in the highlands grow and eat this as our staple food. Our main source of protein is pork, and also culturally very valuable. It was used to pay bride-price, pay fines, buy forests/trees to build houses, and it still has a very high value here. We work hard here to make garden, plant, breed, and grow the crops and animals, no wild pigs here as those in the coastal areas.

Sagoo Harvesting 2Coastal Papuans are generally referred to as the Austro-Melanesians, ancestors originated from Asia. Highlands are Papua-Melanesians, ancestors until today are not yet identified, but generally referred to as native Papuans in this land.

The original people of West Papua work usually as fishermen and traditional farmers. Most of them still lead the traditional life; eat traditional food which is prepared in the traditional way. The staple foods in Papua are rice, sago, taro roots and kau kau which are generally prepared with seafood, chicken, Pork and a large variety of greens. Coconut is used in cooking, for example, taro leaves cooked in coconut cream. Fish and other seafood supplement the diet and chickens are kept. A whole pig is roasted for traditional feasts. The few dishes are such Mumu, Chicken Barapen and Papeda.

Sago Preparation Demonstration at Cultural Event

Mumu is a traditional dish, named after the oven where they cook their dishes; combining pork, sweet potatoes, rice and greens. It is cooked in the ground over hot rocks. Chicken Barapen ala Walesi is one of the most famous Papuan foods. Walesi is a name of tribe in Wamena Papua. They change pork with chicken because many Wamena people are Moslem.

Another traditional food is Papeda, made from sago flour base. This food is very popular for coastal communities or low-lying areas. To make it relatively easy, simply by pouring hot water into the sago flour, stirring it repeatedly until thickened and has a glue-like appearance. Enjoying papeda with yellow spice or sour fish dishes or the other plus the hot chili will taste very good. There is also traditional drink such as Saguer, a kind of ‘MILO’ (local drink) alcohol that is processed from virgin coconut.

Sagoo Harvesting

The main subsistence of the people on the north coast of West Papua is the Sago (the essence of palm trees).┬áTheir sago farm is the natural sago forest located 4 to 5 kms deep inland. Each family do not have clear border of the farm where they have their own area or where is belong to others. Sago tree with the age between 8 to 12 years is ready to be harvested. On the northern coast the work of harvesting sagu is both for men and women, while at the area of the river’s source this is exclusively the work of women, while men are hunters and land cultivators. They hunt various animal such as mouse, pigs, casuary birds, kangaroo, snake, and lizards. Very small wish from them to cultivate land in more systematic way. They just plant in no good treatment among forest area, then leave the area untreated to open other places, the neglected land will not be taken over by other people although after long time the land get back it’s fertility.

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