Top Shelf: Low Country Boil hit in Papua New Guinea

Mar 14, 2020 by Timothy MacDonald

Top Shelf: by Chef Tim MacDonald

On a bucket list tick-off period of my career, I have accepted a mission this winter to check out yachting in Australia and its immediate potential as a charter touring area.

The journey to Papua New Guinea  was an example of what can be expected. This is a do-once-and-move-on, tick-it-off type situation for any charter chef.

Fresh produce is taken on six days before the guests actually arrive. There is an option to fly in, but I highly “dis-recommend” this option. Up there, upriver, you really are on your own with no support chefs. The question is why? Well, it’s a one-off and best left at that.

Arriving far upriver after a three-day voyage, I can only be reminded of Coppola’s masterpiece. The solemn, silent gazes – gazes that are quick to turn into smiles bigger than Carly Simon’s once it’s clear that we mean no harm. In “Apocalypse” the patrol boat’s horn was sounded to disperse the locals. In our case, chocolates are thrown to break the ice and disperse the locals.

Miles and miles of mangrove swamp and unpolluted rain forests flood by as we motor to remote villages in the eastern part of PNG. With the help of our guide Ange, from Melanesian Yacht Services, the guests disembark in villages nothing more than a collection of huts smack bang on the beach.

Immediately the local children paddle up to the yacht in makeshift canoes, selling what they can to make a buck: pineapples, star apples, reed/grass baskets filled with limes. Local fisherman also arrive, selling the local mangrove mud crab and spiny lobsters.

The ice is what stands out to me. The children have never seen ice before, and like McKenna’s gold, the frozen cubes are dispersed at great velocity to the hungry, waiting arms from the aft deck.

With the clients being Southern and considering my history in Savannah, mud crab and local lobsters are used to create a Low Country Boil in the form of an edible table setting. Nothing more than a seasoned boil of corn, old bay, lemon, butter, baby potatoes and seafood. The pot is spilled onto the table setting and the guests crack, gnaw and chew their way through the ‘boil.’



Sweet corn, mud crabs, scallops, shrimp, lobster, yabbies, calamari, baby potatoes, Old Bay Seasoning and lemon …


The method is really simple: It’s nothing more than boiling up all the ingredients in a broth made using lemon, Old Bay and salt.

Each crustacean, once boiled, is cleaned and prepared. On this particular night, I used scallops and calamari, which I breaded.

The key is to get the timing correct, as it’s all last minute.

With a dinner time of 7:30, I started to refresh the seafood through the boil broth and then, while it was still warm, I spilled into onto the table.

Tim MacDonald ( has more than 20 years experience as a chef. He was named Concours de Chefs winner for Yachts over 160 feet at the 2011 Antigua Charter Yacht Show. His recipes are designed for the owner and guests. Comments on this column are welcome below.


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