Learning to cook on Thursday Island

Given the beautiful waters that surround it, you can imagine that Thursday Island cooking makes the most of fish, crustaceans and all sorts of bounty from the sea.

There’s a healthy trade in crayfish in the Torres Strait, and some of it goes into the pies that are sold at Raphael Gushtaspi’s Ma:Kai Café on TI.

Raph and Jade from the café are continuing a tradition of serving crayfish pies that was passed on from a previous baker, but after much trial and error, Raph has mastered his own version of the recipe.

His trick to ensure that every customer enjoys the same amount of its key ingredient is to meticulously weigh each portion of crayfish, and add it in last. The result? Absolutely delicious!

Ma:Kai Café’s right across from the water in the heart of Thursday Island’s tourist precinct. It also serves great coffees and other homemade treats that are made with love, with views that are equally to-die-for.

For a truly traditional Torres Strait foodie experience, visitors should try to sign-up for a cooking demonstration at Gab Titui Cultural Centre, on Thursday Island.

Aunty Goeynaw Isua is an animated and captivating teacher, as she talks through the process of making Sop Sop.

It’s a recipe that Aunty was taught by her mother, but she says versions vary from family to family, and island to island.

Her key ingredients are three different varieties of potato, taro, onion, and banana. They are layered into a cooking pot lined with banana leaves, and the mix is covered in a combination of coconut milk and coconut cream.

Making Sop Sop is usually a combined effort, involving many women pitching in. It’s most commonly enjoyed on a large scale, as part of a community feast.

Aunty recommends sprinkling the top of each serving with shavings of fresh coconut. Yum!

The Gab Titui Cultural Centre is a beautiful building in Victoria Parade on Thursday Island, and details about its exhibitions and public programs are available online.

Its galleries are also well worth a visit for an overview of the culture, arts and heritage of the Torres Strait.

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