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Traditional Tongan Food

Tongan food is is made up of foods from the land and the sea. Tongan people are hunters and collectors of land and sea.
Because of Tonga's beautiful hot and humid weather, we have alot of rain and sunshine. This type of weather environment is perfect for gardening season.
The soil has deposits of volcanic ash, this contributes to a very new 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:
1. Hawaiian sweet potatoes, dark purple colour
2. White sweet potatoes

In Tongan cultural Yam (Ufi) is considered the most precious 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 keep.

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 a small portion 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.