I love the food of the islands. Everything is fresh from the local land and the sea. Exotic fruit and vegetables. Fresh drinking coconuts. If you are visiting Tonga, one thing is for sure, you won’t go hungry.
The staples of Tongan cuisine probably won’t surprise you if you have spent time on other Pacific nations. Things like yam, breadfruit, taro, and coconut all feature heavily in Tongan cuisine. And of course freshly caught fish. The main proteins in Tonga are chickens and pigs. You will see chickens and pigs running wild in pretty much every town and village before becoming dinner. You can rest assured that everything you eat in Tonga will be free range.
Below are some of the must try’s on the island kingdom of Tonga.
Taro leaves (Lu)
Lu is the name for a traditional dish made with taro leaves. The meal consists of chopped meat with onions and coconut milk, wrapped in taro leaves and then cooked in an umu – an earthen oven.
Pig on a spit
Pigs and chickens are the main domesticated farm animals in Tonga and whenever a family is planning on cooking a special dinner (particularly on Sundays), roast pig on a spit will be the main dish.
We spent a lot of time on the island of ‘Eua where the local guesthouse did a roast pig on a spit every Sunday for guests to enjoy. It was certainly worth the small extra cost.
This dish can be found throughout polynesia, and actually the first time I enjoyed it was while in Samoa. It is a big staple in Tonga as well and consists of raw fish marinated in lime or lemon juice which “cooks” the fish. It is then served with fresh coconut cream and diced vegetables. We always order it as an appetizer when going out to restaurants in Tonga, and it is a great light lunch as well.
Fresh young coconut
No visit to a tropical island is complete without your daily young coconut, am I right? You can get fresh coconut everywhere and it is generally cheaper than even bottled water. If you are adventurous you can grab one straight from the palm – although I wouldn’t recommend climbing up there unless you are certain of your abilities.
Young coconut water has tons of electrolytes and vitamins in it, so it is especially good for you after a hot day or some exercise.
When we were walking back from a hike on the island of ‘Eua we came across a random guy knocking down coconuts at the side of the road. He didn’t speak English, but with typical Tongan hospitality, he offered us some coconuts anywhere – and even gave us a lift back to our guesthouse in the back of his pickup truck.