When & Where to Eat
Many people in Palau start the day with coffee or tea as well
as a small breakfast, including a bread of some sort, fruit, and sometimes fish
or rice. Breakfast is usually eaten at home prior to school or the workday.
Lunch was traditionally the largest meal of the day in Palau
and for some people this is still true. For these people, lunch is a large feast
at home with family, which can last a couple hours. The foods served for lunch tend
to be local foods and generally include vegetables, fruits, rice, and perhaps a
protein, like fish. For the people who have a more rigid work schedule, most commonly
in the larger towns, lunch tends to be smaller and is eaten at work, often times
consisting of the previous day's leftovers.
For those who have large lunches, dinner is the secondary meal as it tends to be
much smaller, often just consisting of leftovers from lunch. For those who eat lunch
at work, dinner, which is typically eaten at home, tends to be the largest meal
of the day and can go on for hours as many of the above mentioned foods are served.
Breadfruit (ulu): this fruit is very common
Coconut: coconuts are used for their milk and flesh
Rice: a common base or side for many meals
Taro: taro root is prepared in numerous ways and is one of the
main staples throughout the South Pacific
Yams: yams, a member of the potato family, are found in most meals
Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes
Halo-halo: milk with coconut, plantains, jackfruit, and
Pichi-pichi: cassava and coconut dessert
Tinola: soup with chicken and papaya in a ginger broth
Ulkoy: deep fried shrimp and squash fritters
Dining etiquette in Palau is quite varied and relaxed as there
seems to be a large divide between the locals and the restaurants catered to tourists.
Due to this, people tend to eat in numerous ways and nearly all are acceptable,
although in extreme cases you may be looked at oddly.
If dining with locals be observant of customs and how others eat as this varies
as well. Generally speaking, stand when an elder walks in or out of the room, let
your local host show you a seat, and then be polite and try everything. Accepting
food is a sign of appreciation and not trying the foods offered to you is an insult
to your host. On the other extreme, eating as much as you can shows great appreciation.
Of course eating all of their food is a bad idea as well; the people believe food
is to be shared by all families and neighbors often share food and you should be
sure to eat only as much as your present company. Whether or not you leave food
on your plate when you're finished eating is up to you.
Most of the people eat with their hands, but some families may have and provide
forks. Of course if you're dining at a restaurant you will be provided silverware
(cutlery) and are expected to use it. In these settings eating in the continental
style (knife in the right hand, fork in the left) is the most common, but generally
the etiquette is relaxed so eating in nearly any style will be fine, again depending
on your company. Many Asian restaurants also provide chopsticks, which can be used
if you know how.
If you do eat in a restaurant, the host is expected to pay the bill for everyone
present. If this is you, look on the bill for a service charge; most hotels and
restaurants catered to tourists include a 10% or 15% service charge so no tip is
needed. If there is not a service charge added you may tip at your discretion; few
locals tip and those who do, tip in small amounts, but again, at hotels and restaurants
catered to foreigners a tip is expected.
Although all popular beverages can be found in Palau today,
including juices, soft drinks, tea, and coffee, for an 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
Palau loves beer and the country regularly ranks near or at
the top for beer consumption per capita. However most of these beers are imports
or home-made beers and many of the local beers are not worth special mention. Wine
and liquors are also available in Palau, but again these are generally imports and
are primarily found in hotels and restaurants catered to foreigners.
The tap water is generally not safe to drink in Palau, although
in very limited areas it might be. The most cautious course of action is to entirely
avoid the tap water and items that could be made from or with the water, such as
ice, fruits, and salads. If you do decide to drink the local tap water first check
with your hotel or guesthouse to learn the cleanliness of the water in that area.
If the water is safe, remember that many people may have trouble adjusting to the
local tap water as it will most certainly be different from what your system is
used to if you are not from the region.