The rich cuisine of Tonga is a blend of Chinese, French, German, Indian, Italian, and Japanese cuisine. Some of the traditional Tongan dishes are crayfish and fish, octopus, steamed pork, suckling pig, and tropical fruits. Restaurants in Tonga often offer the cuisine of Germany, Italy, Japan, and Taiwan. Some of the most well liked and mouth watering dishes are devilled clams, feke consisting of squid or grilled octopus in coconut sauce, lobster, meat and onions marinated in coconut milk and baked in taro leaves, ‘ota or raw fish marinated in lemon juice, ‘ufi or large white yam, taro, tropical fruits, and all types of salads.
Experience a traditional Kava Ceremony; lively music, enthusiastic singing, non-stop dancing and plenty of drinks!
In between your Tonga shopping adventures, take the chance to try the local cuisine at one of the great restaurants in Tonga. Our Tonga Restaurant Guide below will introduce you to some of the best places to eat out in Tonga, and the types of cuisine you can look forward to. Dining out in Tonga is a lively and fun affair, and will definitely contribute to some of your finest memories to your Tonga vacation.
Food & Cuisine in Tonga
There are many small eateries in Nuku’alofa that serve mostly Italian and Chinese food. Seaview Restaurant, located west of town, overlooks the ocean and has a colonial style ambiance. Its specialties are outstanding seafood dishes, including lobster. For some delicious budget meals, head over to Akiko’s Restaurant in the Catholic Church grounds. Most Tonga restaurants are closed on Sunday.
Almost all the restaurants on Vuna Road, which is on the oceanfront, are very well recommended. Prices though are a little higher here because of the picturesque location. Some Tongan restaurants have buffets of traditional food, and Tongan dancing as well.
The fish in Tonga is never stale, and always fresh and delicious. Clams and tuna are available in plenty. The Chinese food is a rather pleasant change after all the seafood meals. Roadside Bar-B-Qs are best avoided since the meat is out for a pretty long duration; the local population can handle it but not so the visitors!
Bars in Nuku’alofa are popular fun spots; they get pretty boisterous on Fridays nights but are relatively quiet on other days. Bars close exactly at midnight on Saturday.
The restaurant at the Good Samaritan Inn is the only out of town eatery. They have traditional feast nights twice a week, when the food is accompanied by a cultural dance show. Both the food and the show are very popular among the locals.
The Fifita Guesthouse in Pangai Town is the only place to eat out on Ha’apai. Excellent dishes are prepared by the host, Trevor. The Foa Island Sandy Beach Resort allows non-resort residents to eat at their lovely restaurant, but only if pre-arranged. The Mariners Café at Pangai is another option. Actually almost all the guesthouses are willing to serve visitors a traditional dinner if informed in advance. The best way to go about it is to reach Pangai in the afternoon and ask for dinner to be arranged for later at night.
Vava’u has a better choice of restaurants. Neiafu’s best restaurants are located near the harbour. During the sailing season from May to October, the bars are very lively. The restaurants in Tonga do not have any fixed operating hours, opening and closing at their convenience. Travelers looking for a meal may have to hunt around for an open restaurant.
Tongan cuisine is strongly influenced by the cuisines of China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Taiwan. Many Tongan restaurants serve both traditional and exotic international dishes. The latter are influenced by the cuisines of China, Japan, Korea, France, Germany, Italy, and India. The most common Tongan meats are chicken, fish, and pork, while the vegetables are cabbage, carrots, potatoes, pumpkins, spinach, and tomatoes, among others. Tongan meals are largely made up of coconut products, root vegetables such as sweet potatoes and taro, fresh fruits, fish, shellfish, chicken, corned beef, and pork. The traditional Tongan feasts are cooked in the umu. The umu is an underground oven, very common all over Polynesia.
Coconut juice is the most refreshing drink available here. The drink generally used during social and ceremonial functions is Kava. It is made from the roots of a pepper family plant and is mildly intoxicating.
A delicious fish preparation is fish cooked in cheese sauce and coconut cream. The salmon steak with vegetables is another delightful dish. Snapper cooked in parchment paper is worth a mention too. Not to forget the sashimi. The homemade tagliatelle or pasta is as good as what you will find in Italy. The taro chips are good too. Another heavenly dish is courgettes cooked in olive oil.
The local community of Ovaka, Vava’u, can put up a great feast – homemade octopus chowder, fish, fresh lobster, suckling pig, and crab salad are all available here. Also served in plenty are yams, taro, sweet potatoes, and fresh fruits. Chilled coconut juice is served at the end of this fine meal.
Tongans love feasts. A pola is a long tray made of coconut fronds plaited together. During feasts, a pola is used to serve up to 30 types of dishes. A typical feast includes chicken, crayfish, octopus, pork and vegetables steamed in an umu, suckling pig, and several varieties of tropical fruits.
Tipping is not the norm here nor encouraged. However, tipping does not cause any offense.
Every Thursday night, the Tonga resorts have live entertainment. A variety of traditional dishes, music, singing, dancing, and a kava ceremony are part of the package. The resort staff, sometimes accompanied by Tongans from the villages, present lovely and most importantly, authentic songs called hiva, and dances.