Cooking in the Cook Islands

April 17, 2023 11:46 pm

Ann Bloomquist, co-founder of Anndell Specialty Foods LLC which created the line of Pantala Premium Toppings, discovered her love for food and cooking during her family’s travels around the world aboard a Nordhavn trawler. What follows is one of the amazing adventures that inspired her desire to explore and share delicious worldly culinary creations – from the land, sea and local markets.

Park Rangers on Suwarrow National Park, Cook Islands, tower over the Bloomquists
Park Rangers at Suwarrow National Park, Cook Islands, tower over the Bloomquists

Suwarrow National Park, located in the Cook Islands, is a truly special place. I was fortunate to visit aboard our boat, Oso Blanco, in 2010 and had the pleasure of being greeted by two lovely park rangers, James and Apii. These two rangers were not only valiant stewards of the atoll but also amazing cooks! They taught us how to catch and cook the plate-sized Coconut Crabs, a regional delicacy.

Coconut crabs are fascinating creatures with one giant claw that can easily sever a human finger. In Suwarrow National Park, rangers such as James and Apii, hunt coconut crabs while following strict preservation guidelines. These crabs have no natural predators and emerge from their burrows during rainy weather to prevent themselves from drowning. They feed on coconuts, using their single large claw to crack them open, and live alone in burrows at the base of trees.

Coconut crabs the size of dinner plates

Catching coconut crabs can be difficult, but Apii was the master, catching 18 out of the 22 we obtained during the hunting trip he arranged. We took the crabs back to James, who boiled them, and simply dipped them in butter to make a delicious meal. All the boaters from the anchorage brought in tasty side dishes to share, making it a true feast!

Decadent Coconut Crabs for the feast

The next evening’s meal was crab cakes, which a group of us helped prepare under the tutelage of James. We spent the afternoon picking meat from the remaining crabs, and James simply added some breadcrumbs and mayonnaise to hold them together. The sweet meat of the Coconut crab tastes great without much added to the cakes, but here is a recipe (below) for regular crab cakes you can try at home. I even topped mine with Pantala Mediterranean Fusion which was delicious!

Learning how to catch and cook Coconut Crabs was a unique and unforgettable experience that I will always treasure. Suwarrow National Park is a beautiful place, and I’m grateful for the efforts of park rangers like James and Apii in preserving its natural beauty and unique ecosystem.

Crab Cakes


  • 2 cups of lump crab meat
  • 1/2 cup of bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup of mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp of Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp of chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp of vegetable oil


  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the crab meat, bread crumbs, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, parsley, salt, and pepper. Mix well.
  2. Form the mixture into small balls and flatten them to create small patties.
  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat.
  4. Cook the patties for about 3 minutes on each side until golden brown and crispy.
  5. Serve the crab cakes warm with your favorite dipping sauce – Pantala Mediterranean Fusion!

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