A GOOD SWEET TO EAT
One of Papua New Guinea’s most popular foods, the sweet potato, also happens to be one of the world’s healthiest. Known as kaukau, what these knobbly, irregular-shaped tubers lack in looks is made up for with an enormously nutritious golden flesh that is also sweet and satisfying.
Just one sweet potato provides half the daily recommended dose of vitamin C along with hefty amounts of beneficial fibre, manganese, copper and potassium – all vital for optimum health.
Eat an entire cup of sweet potato, and your body will receive a little over the 18,800 international units of vitamin A it needs for a whole day. Vitamin A controls your genes and cell growth, boosts immunity, and healthy eyesight, plus decreases the chances of developing night blindness.
It also promotes strong bones, lowers cholesterol and helps keep your skin soft.
Sweet potatoes also contain significant amounts of vitamin E, an antioxidant known to protect us from neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, toxins in air pollution, and for helping prevent eye disorders such as cataracts.
Regular consumption of sweet potato is linked to decreased risk of developing obesity, diabetes and heart disease, all ailments that are on the rise in Southeast Asia.
It would appear fortunate, then, that the Spanish brought sweet potatoes with them to PNG around 1200 years ago. Nowadays, there are more than 1000 varieties grown across PNG and the tuber is so popular that PNG boasts the second-largest genetic diversity of sweet potato outside Latin America. In some isolated communities, it is estimated consumption can run at up to three kilograms of sweet potato per person per day, such is the reliance on its filling, delicious flesh.
Thanks to their starchy texture, sweet potatoes do well either baked or roasted, yet are just as delectable when mashed. Other popular ways to serve them include chopping them into cubes before tossing in a mixture of olive oil and herbs, then roasting until tender. On the other hand, sweet potatoes are one of the ultimate low-maintenance vegetables – able to be tossed in the oven and roasted whole as is, and then topped with anything from sour cream to cheese.
Here is a recipe for a particularly tasty sweet potato bake, popular in many parts of PNG.