The Dutch landed on the islands in the 1700s, but foreigners
didn't make any settlement efforts until the 1800s. These settlers, primarily
and Germans, brought their own foods to Samoa
as they introduced cattle, chickens, wheat, potatoes, pineapples, papayas, and mangoes
among many others. These foods added to the local diet and gave these foreign settlers
a familiar diet, but most locals still relied heavily to their historic diet.
Through the 1900s few large culinary influences changed the diet in
Samoa, although better communication, transportation, and technology gave
the people access to imported foods and non-perishable goods, which extended the
shelf life of many foods. Today these foods make an impact on the diet as western
foods and restaurants are popular, particularly those catering to the tourists.
However, the locals tend to maintain their historic diets.
When & Where to Eat
Most people in Samoa start the day with a small breakfast.
This may be fruit, bread, coffee, tea, the previous day's leftovers, or soups,
like the above mentioned supoesi. 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 Samoa
as people would return home to eat a large meal and perhaps take a nap afterwards,
partially 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
For these workers that eat lunch at work, dinner is the largest meal of the day
and it tends to be a large feast with the family. Often times there is enough food
made at this time for following day's breakfast and lunch. Meals in
Samoa today can consist of any number of traditional and more recently introduced
foods, including fish, chicken, vegetables, soups, rice, and more. For those people
who have a large lunch, dinner tends to be a bit smaller and usually consists of
the leftovers from lunch.
This meal schedule slightly varies on Sundays when large families (or even whole
villages) get together for a large meal called umu (or uma). This
meal generally consists of a pig, taro, rice, coconut, and other traditional foods.
As these gatherings require a large amount of foods they generally only take place
in villages or when there is a large family or community gathering.
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, 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
Oka: raw fish or seafood served with coconut cream
Palusami: taro leaves baked in coconut cream
Supasui: beef marinated in soy sauce and stir fried with
ginger, garlic, and onions
Supoesi: hot soup made with coconut cream and pawpaw;
usually served for breakfast
Dining in Samoa varies a bit depending on the setting and
your company. Generally, the dining in Samoa 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 Samoa
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 Samoans eat with their hands and if this is the
case do the same, although they may offer a fork or spoon. 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 full of food as many of the locals will
do) and be sure to try every dish offered as this is a sign of appreciation and
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. Also 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 all of 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 tip at your discretion.
Tipping is not expected in Samoa, but is becoming more common
in hotels and restaurants catered to foreigners.
Celebrations & Events
At nearly every important celebratory event, holiday, or community celebration in
Samoa there is an 'ava Ceremony, which is centered
on the drinking of 'ava (or kava), which is the most traditional
beverage in Samoa. This ceremony is rather formal and the drinking is intertwined
with speeches and other formalities.
Another feature of most important events or celebrations in Samoa
is the umu (or uma) which is an underground cooking process. Rocks
are heated in a hole in the ground then foods are wrapped in banana leaves and placed
on the stones and under the ground, creating a pressure cooker of sorts. Meats of
all kinds can be cooked in this method as can fruits and vegetables, but it is usually
only done with large gatherings as it takes time to prepare and cook food in this
Samoa boasts nearly every popular beverage in the world, including
various juices, soft drinks, tea, and coffee. However for a more authentic taste
of the South Pacific try kava or 'ava. This drink, which goes
by both names in Samoa, is made from the kava plant's roots, which are ground
to release liquid, then water is added and the juice is drank. This drink gives
a very relaxing effect, yet is not considered a drug in the countries of the South
On the alcoholic side of the equation beer rules in Samoa
and there's even a local beer called "Vailima" that is popular here
and in other South Pacific nations. Hard liquors and wine are not as popular, but
both are easily accessible in many hotels and nice restaurants. These hotels and
restaurants are also the only place to purchase alcohol on Sundays as there is an
alcohol ban this day.
Generally speaking, the tap water is safe to drink in Samoa,
but check with locals for any particular regional differences. Also, many people
may have troubles adjusting to the local tap water as it will most certainly be
different from what your system is used to.