The South Pacific is home to some of the most remarkable, unforgettable, and picturesque islands and ultimate travel experiences that attract tourists from all parts of the world.
While there’s a chance that you might know some of the dishes you’re going to try while you’re there, do you know the top 10 dishes in terms of deliciousness all around the South Pacific?
If you don’t, not to worry. In this list, I will tell you some of the best dishes all around the South Pacific, what they are made of, and what makes them so incredibly tasty.
There are many delicious South Pacific dishes; most of them feature fish, seafood, beef, and veggies. Try Fiji’s Kokoda and Lovo, Vanuatu’s Santo Beef and Citrus Fish, Tonga’s Kapisis Pulu and Lu Pulu, Cook Islands Ika Mata and Curried Octopus, New Caledonia’s Crayfish stuffed Crabs and Blue Prawns with Coarse Salt.
Fair warning, you should keep some snacks with you before moving forward because chances are you’re going to feel hungry when you’re done reading.
1. Kokoda – Fiji
We’ll start our list of the most delicious South Pacific dishes with Fiji. Kokoda is a popular delightful dish of Fiji that is often served as an appetizer. It mainly consists of raw fish that is marinated for some time in lemon juice. The juice and its citric nature cook the raw fish naturally. Up until this point, this dish is similar to Hawaii’s poke or Peru’s ceviche. But this is where it becomes different.
Unlike poke or ceviche, coconut milk is also included in Kokoda. Somehow the coconut milk makes the whole dish more flavorful. The type of fish used to make Kokoda is Spanish mackerel, known locally as walu. Other ingredients of this dish include onions, chilies, and seawater.
It is usually served in a coconut shell, giving a unique aesthetic and making it a good candidate for your next Instagram post!
2. Lovo – Fiji
Yet another tasty Fijian meal on our list of delicious South Pacific dishes is Lovo. Lovo means “feast cooked in earth” in the local language. And yes, lovo is a feast that is usually prepared for large gatherings like festivals and weddings.
It is cooked in a hole in the ground lined up with coconut husks, turning the earth into a makeshift oven. The husks are used as fuel for the fire, and once they are lit up, the hole is covered with stone.
The dish is prepared by wrapping meat, vegetables, and fish in taro and banana leaves. The best thing about wrapping it in leaves is that once lovo is ready, it has a smoky, earthy flavor because of the leaves. Not to mention it takes around two to three hours to cook slowly, which results in the meat becoming tender, juicy, and flavorful.
3. Santo Beef – Vanuatu
Next up on our list of delicious South Pacific dishes is the island state of Vanuatu. The most tender, popular, and unique tasting dish on this island is the Santo Beef.
It gets its popularity and uniqueness because of the cattle that come from the northern isle of Santo, also known as Espiritu Santo. They feed off the coconut rind and the Vanuatu grass and live and breathe amongst the coconut trees. Consequently, the beef from that cattle has a delicious taste and texture to it, and it is full of flavor.
The meat cut is of high quality, lean and tender when cooked and is served with different sides and sauces, enhancing the flavor and enticing the taste buds.
4. Baked Citrus Fish in Coconut Cream – Vanuatu
The second most mouth-watering dish on the Vanuatu menu is baked citrus-marinated fish in coconut cream. Yes, it is a long name, but the dish doesn’t disappoint.
Apart from being one of the most delicious South Pacific dishes and famous, it is also a nutritious dish made with whole fish, orange and lemon slices, salt, pepper, and most importantly, coconut cream. It is layered with lemon and orange slices on the fish, which is then sprinkled with some seasonings, and the coconut cream is poured on it.
It is then wrapped in banana leaves and baked on low to medium heat until the fish is cooked to such tenderness that it is hard even to hold it in your hands.
5. Kapisi Pulu – Tonga
Tonga is yet another important island in the South Pacific whose delicious cuisine is worth talking about. The first tasty dish from the island of Tonga is Kapisi Pulu.
It is a popular food in Tonga and is usually served during festivities and special occasions. It comprises canned corned beef, onions, tomatoes, and coconut cream. All ingredients are then mixed well, wrapped in banana leaves, and baked to perfection.
Once cooked, the banana leaves serve as a platter, and Kapisi Pulu is enjoyed while it’s hot. But this is not the only Tongan meal on the list of delicious South Pacific dishes…
6. Lu Pulu – Tonga
Tonga is no loser when it comes to some of the best South Pacific foods, and Lu Pulu is just another example of it.
It is a traditional dish prepared using coconut milk, onions, tomatoes, taro leaves, and canned corned beef. The unique flavor of Lu Pulu comes out because of the special seasonings used while cooking it. The ingredients are then mixed and wrapped in banana leaves and baked for about 2 hours.
Once cooked, it is usually served with rice or yams.
7. Ika Mata – Cook Islands
Ika Mata is one of the most popular and scrumptious delicacies of the Cook Islands. It is, so to speak, the national dish and so worth being on the list of delicious South Pacific dishes.
Ika Mata translates to “raw fish” in Maori, but it’s more like a mixture and explosion of flavors in the form of a salad. There is lime-marinated raw fish at its base, after which coconut cream and finely chopped vegetables are added to the mix. The fish usually used is yellowfin tuna, but also Maroro, also known as flying fish.
Once all the ingredients are mixed, it creates a beautiful mixture of flavors that make this dish insanely popular on the Cook Islands.
8. Curried Octopus – Cook Islands
But there is also another yummy meal in the top listing of delicious South Pacific dishes coming from the Cook Islands. It is Curried Octopus, known locally as eke, is one of the top contenders.
Its ingredients are pretty simple, but maybe that’s the secret to its unique taste. First, the octopus is cooked, cooled down, and then cooked again in onions and coconut cream. The mix of spices, garlic, and different seasonings lends it its unique and aromatic taste.
9. Fried Blue Prawns with Coarse Salt – New Caledonia
A discussion about incredibly delicious South Pacific dishes would be incomplete without mentioning New Caledonia.
These prawns are the world-famous blue prawns that are found in the New Caledonian waters. Apart from their eye-catching blue color, these prawns have a subtle sweet and sour flavor, and their flesh is succulent beyond description.
The trick is hidden in how they are cooked. They are usually fried in olive oil or melted butter, but they are intentionally kept slightly undercooked. It helps retain their unique flavor that would be otherwise compromised.
Once fried, they are served on a silver platter with coarse salt seasoned on top.
10. Crabs and Crayfish – New Caledonia
Have you ever had crabs stuffed with crayfish? Head to New Caledonia if you haven’t.
This dish is one of the most delicious dishes on the island and is usually served as an entree or an appetizer. Firstly, the crayfish is cooked separately while the crab is mixed with vegetables and fried. Once both cooldown, the crab is stuffed with crayfish, placed in buttered tins, and baked in the oven for about twenty minutes.
After which, it is ready to be served and makes up another of the unique and delicious South Pacific dishes.
With this list, you are set for a flavor-filled adventure around the incredible South Pacific without having to worry about what to eat next.
Living on the Cook Islands for a few years, we also found a very inspiring and helpful cookbook: Sue Carruthers, a restaurant owner in Rarotonga and Pacific traveler, wrote about the South Seas Cusine.
We have tried to cover the most delicious South Pacific dishes on different islands, but there’s always a chance you might discover something even more flavorful. Let us know if you do too!