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Nornie Bero’s native kitchen

Passionate about native ingredients, Nornie Bero shares her love of food and what inspires her cooking.

Nornie Bero in the kitchen

Head chef and business owner Nornie Bero describes her style of cooking as being all about generosity and flavour. Her restaurant’s name, Mabu Mabu, translates as ‘help yourself’, which reflects Nornie’s food philosophy and the attitude of Torres Strait Islanders. “It’s always been simple for me,” she says. “I love feeding people and that’s how I was raised – to share and give to others because everyone is welcome.” 

Native flavours

Nornie describes Torres Strait Islander food as “a smiling that never stops”. Originally from Mer Island in the Torres Strait, Nornie has been cooking dishes using Indigenous ingredients for much of her career. She’s passionate about creating native Australian cuisine and encouraging people to embrace these flavours in their everyday cooking.

“As well as soy sauce, chilli and rice, my staples include saltbush, seaweeds and sea succulents,” says Nornie. “Karkalla, a succulent, is one of my favourite native ingredients. It’s salty but with crunch – great for pickling, salads and stir-fries.” Pepperberries are another favourite. “They have a spicy clove flavour that’s great for enriching sauces.”

Besides native ingredients, Nornie loves to cook with tropical fruits, such as pineapple and guava, as well as root vegetables, like yams and taro. “If you can’t get your hands on these veg, try potatoes and daikon instead,” she says.

Celebration food

When it comes to entertaining, one of Nornie’s favourite dishes for large family gatherings is semur chicken. “It’s a must for any celebration table,” Nornie says. “You use all of the chicken and never waste anything. It’s a dish to cook for someone special and it stays with you forever.”

Nornie Bero’s semur chicken

A favourite in the Torres Strait, this tasty semur chicken recipe is packed with rich flavour. 

Nornie Bero’s Sop Sop (yam stew)

Enjoy a taste of the Torres Strait with this delicious stew. Made with coconut cream and loaded with veggies, it will be a hit at the dinner table.