FOOD & FEASTING
FOOD & FEASTING IN TONGA
Expect to be well fed on your travels. Traditional Tongan favourites to try include ‘ota ‘ika (raw fish marinated in lemon and coconut cream), and lu pulu (corned beef and coconut milk wrapped in taro leaves). Food and feasting are an integral part of Tongan society, and the feasts of the Kingdom are renowned throughout the Pacific for their size and diversity.
In a Tongan feast, up to 30 different dishes are served on a pola, a long tray made from plaited coconut leaves. Traditional food growing and the gathering of seafood is still an important way of Tongan life. Delicious meat and seafood may include spit-roasted suckling pig or steamed fish, chicken, beef, octopus and the freshest of local vegetables including yam, taro, sweet potatoes and cassava.
Starchy fruits like plantain and breadfruit are also eaten like vegetables, often boiled with delicate coconut cream and a popular local custom is to wrap vegetables in banana leaves for cooking or for serving. A special memory for many visitors is to experience a traditional underground oven or umu. Food cooked slowly and carefully in an umu retains its flavour and also develops a delicious smokiness.
| THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT FOOD IN TONGA
- Restaurants can only be found in Tonga’s main towns and some resorts
- Most restaurants serve international cuisine but you can sometimes find Tongan dishes in Tongan takeaways in Nuku’alofa and some resort restaurants
- The drinking age in Tonga is 18 years
- Tongan food portions are huge
- Local meat, Poultry and seafood are generally safe to eat
- You will need cash to pay for food from markets and supermakets
| TRADITIONAL TONGAN FOOD
The Tongan diet mainly consists of pork, chicken, lamb and fresh fish, combined with things like fresh coconut milk , taro leaves, yams, kumala , cassava and more. Most restaurant in Tonga serve more international cuisine but you can try a few traditional foods like ota ika and lu pulu on some restaurant menu.
| TONGAN DRINKS
Tonga has a couple of traditional-style drinks, as well as contemporary drink products that are made in Tonga. A traditional drink is kava made from the ground-up roots of a pepper plant, which is usually a very popular drink among locals, but visitors can try it through resorts and other accommodations. Another drink to try is ‘otai, a fruit drink typically made with watermelon and mango.
As for artisan beverage products of Tonga, there’s Tongan coffee, such as Tupu’Anga Coffee and Kingdom Koffie, while Tongan craft beers from Pacific Brewing Co and Tonga Breweries are usually on offer in Tonga’s bars and liquor stores.
| FOODIE THINGS TO DO IN TONGA
Here are just a few ways you can experience the food in Tonga:
- Go to a Tongan cultural show and feast TTD361
Visit a local market TTD359
- Try a traditional umu at an accommodation or Ancient Tonga (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Try kava through your accommodation or with Ancient Tonga
- Catch dinner on a fishing charter
- Have a private dining experience on the beach with your resort
- Tour a vanilla plantation in Vava’u
- Tour the Tupu’Anga Coffee Roastery in Nuku’alofa
- Indulge at one of the local restaurants
| TONGAN DISHES
| FOOD SAFETY TIPS IN TONGA
If you’re in an area that may have unsafe water, such as remote outer islands, avoid eating salads or uncooked food that might have been washed with contaminated water. Try to eat food that has been cooked in front of you. Vegetarian food is usually a safer option than eating meat or fish.
Avoid gastro bugs by using hand disinfectant and only eating cooked food. If you get diarrhoea, drink water regularly and alternate between electrolytes and water. See a doctor if other symptoms occur.
A more common type of food poisoning in Tonga is ciguatera caused by eating reef fish that has eaten toxic algae. Locals know what reef fish to avoid eating, so only eat what the locals eat or simply avoid eating reef fish altogether.
Finally, do not eating runny eggs or undercooked meat to avoid salmonella.