The Best Food In Vanuatu (12 Local Delicacies To Try!)

Tristan Balme The best food in Vanuatu the best local foods to try

When I visit a new country or culture, I make it a point to indulge in all the local food they have to offer. While some learn about a culture through museums or guidebooks, I learn through my stomach, and Vanuatu has some of the best local cuisine I’ve tasted in the Pacific!

From fresh seafood meals to sweet tooth-satisfying desserts, these dishes truly reflect the island’s history, geography, and traditions. In this post, I’ll share what i reckon is the best food in Vanuatu to try when you holiday in the area (and my recommended eateries to try the meals too!)

Related: You can read my 7 best restaurants in Vanuatu in this article here

1. Coconut Fish Curry

Vanuatu’s abundance of fish means you’ll find a variety of seafood dishes to savor. And one that doesn’t fall short of tasty is the hearty coconut fish curry. It’s prepared with fresh fish folded in a curry sauce made of coconut milk, onion, garlic, and a medley of spices. The fish is cooked until tender and flaky, and the sauce is thick and creamy. It’s best enjoyed with rice and a side of salad or vegetables. 

Where to try it

  • The Waterfront Bar & Grill 
  • The Stone Grill
Coconut Fish Curry

2. Laplap

A national dish of Vanuatu, laplap is one of the most exciting foods you’ll ever try. It’s a type of pudding made with grated taro or yam, breadfruit, coconut milk, and meat, poultry, or fish. This combination is wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in an underground oven for several hours. The result is a soft and moist cake-like dish with a smoky flavor. 

Where to try it

  • Local markets
  • Lapita Cafe
Photo credit: Carlos Braga in Pinterest

3. Tuluk

Tuluk is similar to laplap, only with a twist. It’s made with grated cassava, minced meat, and some spices. The mixture is individually wrapped in banana leaves and steamed for several hours. It serves as a great snack for any time of day.

Where to try it

The dish is widely available in street stalls and markets across Vanuatu. I also recommend you visit Mele Village in Efate. Their version is bound to keep you coming back for more. 

Photo credit: Vanuatu Cuisine in Pinterest

4. Beef Fillet

Vanuatu is famous for its grass-fed beef. This means you’ll get to savor the most tender, juicy, and flavorful meat. It’s prepared in different ways, but one of the best ways to enjoy it is as a beef fillet. You can eat it with fries or vegetables and top it with a sauce of your choice.

Where to try it

  • Cafe Vila
  • Stone Grill 
  • Wild Ginger
  • Flaming bull steakhouse
  • K2 kitchen
Beef fillet

5. Poulet Fish

Poulet fish has a firm white flesh and is mildly flavored. It derives its name from the fact that its texture resembles both poultry and fish. It’s prepared in different ways, but I tried the grilled over charcoal version, moderately marinated with lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper. The dish pairs well with traditional breadfruit and coconut sauce. Alternatively, for a safe bet, enjoy it with rice. 

Where to try it

  • Aqua on Erakor
  • Tamanu on the Beach
  • The Beach Bar
  • K2 kitchen
Poulet Fish

6. Vanuatu Coconut Cake

This moist and rich coconut-flavored cake is a must-try if you have a sweet tooth. It’s made with minimal ingredients–shredded coconut, sugar, eggs, butter, and vanilla–and then baked until golden brown. It’s a simple but satisfying treat you can enjoy with a beverage of your choice.

Where to try it

  • Au Peche Mignon
  • Le Fournil De Vila
  • Jill’s Cafe
  • K2 kitchen
  • Aelan Cafe
  • Jungle Cafe
Coconut cake

7. Coconut Crab

Coconut crab is a delicacy unique to Vanuatu and some other Pacific islands. It can weigh up to 4 kilograms and one feature I found fascinating was that it has large claws that can crack open coconuts. The fish can be either boiled, roasted, or fried, and its meat is sweet and succulent and tastes like a combination of crab and lobster.

Where to try it

  • Vila Chaumieres 
  • Tamanu on the Beach
  • Port Olry Beach Resort (Pey Seriniti Restaurant or Harbour View Restaurant)
  • Chez Louis Restaurant
Coconut crab

8. Cassava Pudding

This soft, sweet, and nutty-flavored pudding is made with grated cassava, coconut milk, sugar, and vanilla. It’s then baked and makes a great dessert to wrap up any meal you’ve had.

Where to try it

Several vendors and locals in the markets and villages prepare the pudding. But if you want to dine in, you can try Nambawan Cafe.

Cassava Pudding

9. Simboro

Similar to laplap, only with a different shape and texture, Simboro is made with grated taro, coconut milk, and meat or fish. The mixture is rolled into long tubes and wrapped in banana leaves and then boiled or steamed until cooked. It has a chewy texture, is mildly flavored, and is easily enjoyable as a snack.

Where to try it

  • Local markets or villages 
  • Lapita Cafe

10. Baked Fish in Coconut Cream

Baked fish in coconut cream uses snapper or tuna as a base, coconut cream, onion, and a few spices. It’s creamy and delicious and served with rice or breadfruit, and sometimes with a side of salad or vegetables. 

Where to try it

  • The Waterfront Bar & Grill
  • The Blue Marlin Club
  • The Stone Grill
Baked Fish in Coconut Cream

11. Kava

Not technically a food, Kava is a drink that’s an integral part of the island’s culture and is mainly consumed for social, ceremonial, or medicinal purposes. It’s made from the roots of the kava plant, which are pounded into a powder and mixed with water. It has a peppery bitter taste and a muddy appearance.

Where to try it

You can try the drink at any of the kava bars scattered around Port Vila. Some of my recommendations are:

  • Chiefs Nakamal 
  • Bamboo Nakamal
  • The Kava Lounge

12. Poisson Cru

This refreshing and light dish is perfect for a hot day. It’s prepared with raw fish, lime juice, coconut milk, onion, tomato, and cucumber. The fish is cut into small pieces, marinated in lime juice, and mixed with the coconut milk and the other ingredients. 

Where to try it

  • Orovy Beach restaurant
  • The Beach Bar
Poisson Cru

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