Since a western diet was introduced into Tongan culture in the 18th and 19th centuries, locals have become accustomed to consuming large amounts of sugar and flour. Sadly, through the years, this has resulted in extremely high obesity rates, with around 90 percent of the population being overweight. However, as with most South Pacific cultures, large bodies are sought after, by both men and women, although the islanders are growing increasingly aware of the associated health risks of a high fat diet.
Lamb belly and imported tinned meats such as corn beef remain extremely popular in the every day cuisine of Tonga. Lu is a popular dish, which is taro leaves wrapped around chopped meat, and then wrapped again with a banana leaf, and cooked. A typical drink is otai, which is a coconut cream-based drink made with shredded coconut pulp and then mixed with any variety of grated tropical fruits.
Bars and Pubbing in Tonga
The locals of Tonga are not allowed to purchase and consume imported alcohol unless they hold a liquor license. Many do not bother with the formalities, and so often drink secretively. On the rare chance that you may spot them in the evening, you may encounter a group of men sitting together sipping the local homebrew called hopi, which is a beer-like beverage made from water, sugar, mashed fruit, and yeast. Tourists do not need to attain such a permit to drink. There are several drinking options for tourists, with most sticking to their hotel or resort bars.
If you are in Nuku’alofa, you can go to the Giggling Whale and Thirsty Turtle Gastropub (Seafront Wharf, Nuku’alofa). This is a great place to kick back and enjoy a drink to the background of live music. The establishment serves a number of eclectic dishes, including local specialties and international options. It is open daily between 12:00 p.m. and midnight.
Dining and Cuisine in Tonga
There are few dining options around the islands of Tonga, with visitors best sticking to the dining options in their hotel or resort. However, if you are staying in the capital city, you have a few more choices. For example, the Beach Hut Café (Faua Wharf, Nuku’alofa) provides a nice mixture of local and international cuisine. It is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; no reservation is necessary.
For an upmarket dining experience, you may consider heading to Fafa Island Resort (Fafa Island, near Nuku’alofa), which has a fine restaurant serving local dishes cooked in gourmet style, with several seafood options. In particular, you could try their specialty lobster. You will need to make a reservation, and will be picked up by boat from Nuku’alofa Wharf, and returned after your meal. The restaurant is open daily from 12:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. for lunch and dinner. It also features a cocktail bar overlooking the ocean.