Tonga: Kale Sipi (Lamb Curry)

Friend: Which country are you cooking from?
Claire: Tonga
Friend: oh, ok.
Friend (about 30 minutes later): Where is Tongaat?
Claire (thinking this was an unrelated question): Up the north coast of South Africa.
Friend: oh. Which country are you cooking from?
Claire: Tonga! Haha. Not Tongaat!

Maybe you had to be there, but my friend and I had a good laugh at the above. There was much confusion around the dish, and my friend could not work out how Tongaat could be considered a separate country, or how Tongaat could have a dish very different from the remainder of South Africa.

Anyway, to clarify, Tonga is a country forming part of Oceania (Australasia). It is made up of 169 islands, many of which are uninhabited.  It is officially known as the Kingdom of Tonga, and is situated to the east of Australia. The official languages are Tongan and English, and the dominant religion is Christianity.  It has a tropical climate (much like Tongaat) and bats are considered sacred (no thanks). Tonga has one of the highest obesity rates in the world (no doubt with how delicious the food is), and the Tongans play rugby (I remember seeing them on Tazos when I was a kid).

Ok, so the food. Based on the recipe (found here) Tonga obviously also has sheep. This dish, a lamb curry, was superb. The aroma of the spices mixing together at the beginning was just out of this world – I kind of wish you could bottle it and keep it (the smell – obviously you can keep the spices). The dish is typically served on cassava mash, but considering we don’t grow such products in South Africa, I went with sweet potato mash, and rice as an option. I was super excited to have found the beautiful orange sweet potatoes, which just change the whole feel and aesthetics of the meal. The only fault, although not a culinary fault, is that I bought lamb on the bone which just makes eating more difficult (but I understand this is in fact the ‘right’ way to cook lamb). Will I make it again? Without a doubt!


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