When & Where to Eat
Most of the people in Vanuatu start the day with coffee
or tea and a small breakfast, such as a bread of some sort, fruit, or even fish
and rice. Breakfast is usually eaten at home prior to school or the workday.
Lunch was traditionally the largest meal of the day in Vanuatu
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 the many foreigners who live
in Port-Vila, they also tend to have a small lunch at work, but the foods tend to
be more international in flavor as they may bring their own lunch or buy one at
one of the city's many restaurants.
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 tends to be the largest meal of the day and can go on for hours
as many of the above mentioned foods are served. For most of the locals, dinners
are often eaten in the home, but the large international community in Port-Vila
often times prefers going to a restaurant for dinner and this has contributed to
the city's large restaurant scene.
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; it is one of the
main staples in the South Pacific
Yams: yams, a member of the potato family, are found in many meals
Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes
Coconut crab: this specialty is now becoming quite rare or expensive
as the species is plummeting in numbers
Lap Lap: yams, bananas, or another food covered in coconut
cream and cooked; often cooked with chicken, fish, or bat
Dining in Vanuatu is generally very relaxed as rules are
scarce, dress is usually casual, and tardiness is expected. More importantly, the
dining experience differs greatly between dining in a village with a family and
eating in a restaurant catered to tourists. Due to these extremes the most important
thing to remember is to follow your host.
Many people arrive a few minutes late (or later) so you may do the same as time
is less important than the conversation once you are seated. Let your host show
you a seat and follow their lead, but little fuss will be made for mistakes, although
there are a couple rules that should be followed. The most important of these is
that you will notice most locals will go out of their way to cater to you and your
needs; return this favor by trying everything served to you and graciously accepting
How you eat is again a question and one of the areas where you will provide little
offense if done incorrectly, but if dining with others foreigners (especially in
a business setting), try to follow their dining rules, or be safe and just follow
standard international dining etiquette rules. For the locals, many eat with their
hands, but in restaurants you are expected to use utensils (cutlery), including
eating in the continental style (knife in the right hand, fork in the left). If
in a restaurant be sure to indicate you have finished eating by placing your fork
and knife together pointing at the 10:00 position. If eating with an ethnic Chinese
also be sure to leave a little food on your plate when you're finished. Elsewhere
the rules are more relaxed and you can eat everything or leave some behind, but
remember you should try everything offered and don't eat more than others dining
Generally, if eating in a restaurant, the host is expected to pay for everyone present.
If you are the host, do not leave a tip, no matter how good the service was. This
is a request commonly made by the people of Vanuatu as well as tour companies based
in the country; tipping creates jealousy and is not a healthy practice in the country
and they prefer to keep it that way.
Vanuatu imports many beverages from nearby
Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere so nearly
every internationally popular drink can be found, from tea and coffee to juices
and soft drinks. However for a more authentic taste of the South Pacific try kava,
which 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
and in Vanuatu tends to be stronger than in other countries of the South Pacific.
Vanuatu offers many major international alcoholic beverages
including beers, liquors, and wines, however they are expensive and their availability
is limited. Many locals prefer to drink beer, most commonly the local beer "Tusker."
Generally speaking, the tap water is not safe in Vanuatu.
There are exceptions to this, most particularly in the larger towns and cities,
but in the water is not consistently safe anywhere. Check with locals before consuming
the water and if you do decide to drink the water, remember that 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.