Tongan Food

Traditional Tongan Food

Tongan food is is made up of foods from the land and the sea. Tongan people are hunter and gatherers of land and sea.

Because of Tonga's beautiful tropical weather, we have allot of rain and sunshine. This type of weather environment is perfect for cultivation.

The soil has deposits of volcanic ash, this contributes to a very fertile soil. A lot of land Tongan foods are made up of different root crops, it's a substitute for your common potatoes.

Common Tongan Land Foods

DIFFERENT ROOT CROPS: All root crops are cooked by boiling water or by traditional underground oven (a Umu) and is usually sauced with Coconut cream.

There is 2 types of Sweet potatoes (kumala

  1. Hawaiian sweet potatoes, dark purple colour
  2. White sweet potatoes

In Tongan cultural Yam (Ufi) is considered the most valuable root crop out of all the root crop family, not because of it's taste but because of it being the most difficult (Labour intensive) root crop to plant and maintain.

There is 8 types of Yam (Ufi)

  1. Ufi lei
  2. Kaho Kaho Ufi
  3. Kau meile Ufi
  4. Hawaii Ufi
  5. Kahokaho Ufi
  6. Mahoaa Ufi
  7. Voli Ufi
  8. Kulo Ufi.

Tapioka or Casava (Manioke)

Tapioka is what people in the western countries would be familiar with as "Tapioka" or "Tapioka pudding". But this is the actual root crop, straight out of the ground.

How you would see this Tapioka in western countries, is in supermarkets in small plastic bags with allot of small white balls inside. These white balls are then made into Tapioka pudding.


There are 3 types of Taro (Talo) in Tongan food, the leafs of these root crop are also used for food as well, not only the root. The Taro leaf is used to wrap other foods in as well. It works as a protection covering of the food inside it, before being lowered into a traditional underground oven, then once it is cooked you can eat the taro leaf covering and the different additional food inside. Usually the food inside would be a meat of some sort example, chicken, fish, beef, sauced in with coconut cream, onions and tomatoes.

  1. Talo Tonga
  2. Talo Futuna
  3. Kape (Giant taro)


A lot of these Tongan fruits are seasonal, so we eat with the seasons. 

Paw paw (Lesi) - The black seeds of this fruit is also used as a medicine for stomach problems.

  • Mango
  • Grape fruit (Moli Tonga)
  • Oranges (Moli peli)
  • Mandarine (Moli vai keli)
  • Smaller mandarine (Moli te'e kosi)
  • Ripe Banana's (Siane) - Green bananas before ripening is also eaten at this stage by boiling in water and eaten as a side dish.
  • Bread fruit (Mei)
  • Guarva (Kuava)
  • Passion fruit (Vaine)
  • Indian apple (Apele india)
  • Avocado (Avoka)
  • Passion (Passion) - In Tongan food this is a different type of passion fruit. The difference is that it grows to small/medium water melon size before it is eaten.
  • Coconut (Niu) - Most people think that the coconut is only eaten and drunk in one way. Well in Tongan food it can be eaten in 3 different ways. 1st way - Climb up the coconut tree and freshly pick it and then drink the juice and break open the coconut husk and shell and then scrape the soft flesh out and eat it. The coconut flesh at this stage is quite soft.

2nd way - When the coconut falls from the tree onto the ground, on it's own accord and it has been lying on the ground for a while it starts to slowly degrade over time and then starts to dry up. This can also be eaten at this stage, with a different taste and texture. But it has less juice in it and the flesh has gone harder (crunchy and drier) This stage of the coconut is what most westerners are familiar with.

Also at this stage the harder drier coconut flesh can be scraped out with a coconut scraper/shaver and then these shavings are collected to a substantial amount, then the shavings are put into a coconut husk siv and then manually squeezed to get the coconut cream out of the coconut shavings. This is not the coconut juice. This is coconut cream (loloi niu)

3rd way - The coconut is the actual seed of the coconut tree and when the coconut has been sitting on the ground for quite a long time it starts to put roots into the ground and starts to sprout into a new young coconut tree.

Even at this sprouting seed stage the coconut can be eaten in Tongan food, in a different way and it has a different taste and texture. The juice has totally disappeared from the center of the coconut and turned into a seed with a moist pavalova texture, this can be eaten as well with a very strong coconut flavor.


  • Allot of the sea foods can also be eaten raw with sea water for salty flavor.
  • Sea snail (Elili)
  • Fish (Ika)
  • Vegetarian lobsters (U'O)
  • Octopus (Feke)
  • Mussels (Kuku)
  • Mama.
  • Sea weed.
  • Sea earchant.


  • Taro leafs (Lu)
  • Tongan spinach (Pele)


Telie (Indian almond)


  • Free range chicken (Moa Tonga)
  • Free range pigs (Puaka)
  • Horse meat.
  • Pacific pigeon (Lupe)

Here are some famous Tongan recipes

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Togan foods are all part of the culture. Explore the culture more here.

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