Christmas Island cuisine
As of 2009, the island had just 1,200 residents - 65% Chinese Malaysians and 20% Malays. Despite the island being an Australian territory, only 15% of residents are of European descent. This figure also does not include the almost 600 people who work in or in association with the Christmas Island Immigration Reception and Processing Centre.
There are an additional 2,000+ people living at the Christmas Island Immigration Reception and Processing Centre. Their meals are flown in by the Australian Government via operator Serco.
Almost no fresh food is grown on the island due to nematodes in the soil. However, there are three local gardens on the island that grow small amounts of Asian greens. There is a community garden at Drumsite, another small community vegetable patch in Poon Saan and a temple garden also in Poon Saan. These community gardens are distinctive for their garden beds built up out of the soil, as the worms tend not to come up towards the heat and risk drying out, preserving the roots of the vegetables. Some of the Asian greens and vegetables grown include bok choy, choy sum, kangkong, Chinese mustard, eggplant and okra among others.
Locals rely on government-contracted deliveries of fresh food from mainland Australia. As of November 2013 there is an additional air-freight of vegetables that arrives from Malaysia via Indonesia each Friday night for purchase on Saturday morning. This air-freight caters mostly to the tastes of the local community bringing in fresh noodles, Asian greens, fish, pork belly, bones and fillets, and other package foods like fish balls and tofu.
In recent years, the supply of fresh food has been impacted by a number of major incidents. In January 2012, the MV Tycoon crashed into the island's main dock at Flying Fish Cove, preventing subsequent fresh-food deliveries from reaching the island. When food supplies by ship are not available, air-freighted deliveries have been known to sell out within hours.
Due to the tropical nature of Christmas Island's weather, a wide variety of food grows wild on the island. Fruit trees are found dotted around the island and on private properties. Some of the things that can be found by foraging on Christmas Island include:
- wild lime
- bunga kantan (also known as laksa flower or torch ginger flower - botanical name Etlingera elatior)
- manquang (a Chinese turnip also known as jicama)
Many other well known tropical fruits such as rambutan, lychee and durian do not grow on Christmas Island as there is inadequate soil depth and not enough steady rainfall throughout the year.
Traditionally, chickens were kept on the island and locals produced their own pickled eggs and Chinese century eggs. Dishes that made use of the chickens themselves were popular along with dishes that included the local Christmas Island red crab.
Places to eat out
There are 10 places to eat out on Christmas Island
- Cari Makan - a Malay cafe at Kampong - different specials each night of the week
- Le CLA (Chinese Literary Association) - a Chinese restaurant at Settlement
- The Barracks Cafe - an Australian cafe at Settlement
- The Golden Bosun - an Australian style pub
- The Christmas Island Resort - a restaurant selling a variety of Western and Asian food.
- Tracks Tavern - a pub at Drumsite that sells burgers and Thai Food
- Lucky Ho - a local Chinese Restaurant at Poon Saan
- Seaview Fish and Chips - a local "chippie" in Poon Saan
- Seasons Palace - another local Chinese Restaurant in Poon Saan
- The Coffee Shop (also known as Poon Saan Kopi Tiam) which sells a different Malaysian hawker dish special each day.
- Christmas Island: Food by Mark Rochfort (Shorefire, 2006)
- No paradise on Christmas Island by Paige Taylor (The Australian, 25 May 2009)
- Fresh food fears for Christmas Island by Rebecca Trigger (The West Australian, 10 January 2012)
- Christmas Island: An Anthropological Study. Cambria Press. 2008. pp. 109–. ISBN 978-1-60497-510-9. Retrieved 26 April 2013.