Every time you go out to eat in Vanuatu, you'll be served up a slice of culture and history.
The local cuisine in Vanuatu tells part of the country's story. There are dozens of restaurants in Port Vila, serving an eclectic range of cooking styles that reflect thousands of years of immigration by combining influences from Europe, Asia and Melanesia. The diverse multicultural flavours mean you'll be spoilt for choice when dining out.
At its heart, Vanuatu's cuisine is simple and wholesome, with plenty of fresh produce and organic meat. The international influences are tempered by the island lifestyle, so you can look forward to lots of coconut cream, rice and tropical fruit.
The core ingredients of much of Vanuatu's cuisine are taro, yam, banana, coconut and seafood. Most people in Vanuatu grow their own food, so you will see gardens overflowing with mangoes, papayas, plantains, and sweet potatoes, with a few chickens or pigs strutting around in between.
Markets are a great place to explore the fresh, local produce in Vanuatu. You can shop for juicy tropical fruits to snack on, or stop by the food stalls to try home-cooked dishes and eat alongside ni-Vanuatu. This is one of the most cost-effective ways to get a proper taste of local Vanuatu cuisine.
You may not have known of this previously, but Vanuatu’s Santo beef is a widely regarded high quality cut of meat. Raised on Espiritu Santo, the cows in Vanuatu enjoy a diet rich in nutrients and natural vitamins, and the beef that comes from them carries those flavours, garnering it a well-deserved reputation.
You can't leave Vanuatu without finding out for yourself why the lean and tender meat is starting to gain international recognition! For a fine dining experience, you can sample Santo beef at Mangoes restaurant in Port Vila, or for a less gourmet version you can seek out a steak at an eatery in downtown Port Vila.
It might not sound like something you’d want to try, but give the flying fox a go and let your taste buds be surprised by this exotic delicacy. The foxes are caught in Vanuatu’s fruit trees and typically cooked in a stew. One of the best places you can sample this treat is at L’Houstalet restaurant, which is owned and run by French chef, Clement Martinez.
If you can keep a secret, the way to make the flying fox meat so delicious is to marinate it in red wine for 12 hours and then cook it for two more until it’ s tender.
This might seem like another dish you wouldn’t rush to try, but while you’re at L’Houstalet, you should try the wild pigeon. When served, it comes lathered in an incredible French cream sauce,
Another delicacy that you will find on the menu at L'Houstalet is wild pigeon. Served with very French, creamy sauces, this dish is the perfect combination of local resources and French influence.
Vanuatu's national dish is something everyone should try. Lap lap consists of yams, banana or manioc soaked in coconut cream and cooked in an earth oven. Lap lap has a pudding-like consistency and sometimes comes with chicken or fish. It doesn't have to be a fancy meal, in fact, you can try it on the go while you’re looking through the markets.
You could also try simboro, which is a variation on lap lap where the dish is stuffed into leaves and then simmered in coconut milk.
Caught fresh off the pristine shores of Vanuatu’s islands, poulet is a local variety of fish which has tender white meat and not too many bones – so it’s ideal for the kids to try if they’re wanting to get a taste of the ocean. It’s served in a couple of different ways, but if you’re wanting a safe exploration of Vanuatu’s seafood, then we’d definitely recommend trying it out.
Fewer restaurants are serving coconut crab these days but it does still appear on restaurant menus as it's a local speciality. However, it is important to note that due to over harvesting of the crab, the species is becoming endangered. So if you’re environmentally minded like we are, your better option is to try another kind of seafood to help protect the crab.
To get a taste of Vanuatu, reach out to us and we will help you arrange the island getaway you deserve.