When & Where to Eat
Most people in Kiribati start the day with a small breakfast.
This may be fruit, breads, coffee, tea, or the previous day's leftovers. No
matter the food it tends to be small and eaten at home.
Lunch was always the largest and longest meal of the day in Kiribati
as people would return home to eat a large meal and perhaps take a nap afterwards
to avoid the hottest part of the day outside. This is still common in many villages,
especially among farmers, fishers, and others who spend their time outside. In most
places lunch has become a shorter meal as most people eat at work or school.
For these workers that eat lunch at work, dinner is the largest meal of the day
now and it tends to be a large feast with the family. Often times there is enough
food made for this meal and the following day's breakfast and lunch. For those
people who have a large lunch, dinner tends to be a bit smaller and usually consists
of the leftovers from lunch.
Breadfruit (ulu): this fruit is very common
Coconut: coconuts are used for their milk and flesh
Pandanus: this fruit is common on some islands and is often boiled
before being eaten
Rice: a common base or side for many meals
Taro: taro root is prepared in numerous ways, including as poi;
it is one of the main staples throughout Polynesia
Yams: yams, a member of the potato family, are found in many meals
Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes
Palu sami: coconut cream, onion, and curry powder wrapped
in taro leaves; often served with pork or chicken
Dining in Kiribati varies a bit depending on the setting
and your company. Generally, the dining in Kiribati is less formal than it is in
many countries and rules are more relaxed. Despite this, there are some formal restaurants
in the country and if dining in a business setting rules are more important.
The formalities and most important aspects of dining in Kiribati
are related to behavior more than actual eating. For example, bringing food to a
dinner, even a small side dish or dessert can be a great offense to the host by
indicating they will not prepare enough food for everyone. Also let your host seat
you as guests are also often asked to sit in the middle of the table so they may
converse with everyone more easily.
Once seated, and you must be sitting to eat, you may notice silverware (cutlery)
or it may be absent. Many of the people eat with their hands and if this is the
case do the same, although they may offer a fork or spoon. If you do eat with your
hands a bowl of water will likely be passed around before (and after) the meal to
wash your hands. Prior to taking your food be aware that taking a second serving
is rude so take everything you plan to eat before eating (even if this plate is
huge as many of the locals will do) and be sure to try every dish offered as this
is a sign of appreciation and respect.
Don't begin eating until indicated to do so; your host may expect you to start
eating first as the guest, but don't assume this. Most meals also begin with
a blessing of some sort and you shouldn't start eating until this. Try to eat
at the same pace as everyone else so everyone begins and finishes eating at about
the same time. Most of the people will leave some food behind then will take their
excess food home for a latter meal. You are welcome to do the same, but as a guest
your host may insist you finish your food.
If dining in a restaurant, many of the above rules also apply, but there will most
definitely be eating utensils and the setting will be more formal (although it will
still be less formal than most of Europe,
Australia, or North America). The host of
a meal is expected to pay for everyone present; if this is you check for a service
charge on the bill. Often times a 10% service charge is included in the bill so
no additional tip is needed. If there is no service charge on the bill, tip at your
Today nearly any popular international beverage can be found in
Kiribati, such as juices, soft drinks, tea, and coffee. However for a more
authentic taste of the South Pacific try kava. This drink is made from
the kava plant's roots, which are ground to release liquid, then water is added
and the juice is drunk. This drink gives a very relaxing effect, yet is not considered
a drug in the countries of the South Pacific.
Beer is overwhelmingly the most popular alcoholic beverage in Kiribati
among the locals, but there are no local breweries so all beer is imported. Hard
liquors and wine are also typically available in hotels and nice restaurants, but
the selection is somewhat limited in most locations.
The tap water is not safe to drink in Kiribati; in fact
in many areas you shouldn't even swim in it due to small organisms that can
penetrate your skin. You should entirely avoid the tap water and items that could
be made from or with the water, such as ice, fruits, and salads.