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Tongan food belongs to Tonga, a country in the Southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country consists of 170 islands, which are divided into three major groups and a few isolated islands.

Tongan Food - Common Ingredients

Chicken, pork, and seafood are widely used in cooking. Horse meat and pigeons are also consumed. Seafood dishes are made with fish, snails, lobsters, mussels, octopus, and sea weeds. Root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, yam, cassava, and taro are also used to make dishes. Papaya, banana, and mandarin are some of the fruits available here. Coconut, coconut milk, coconut cream, and coconut water are also widely used to make dishes and drinks.

Cooking Method

The traditional Tongan cooking method is similar to the Hawaiian kalua. Tongans cook food in the underground oven called umu. A large pit is dug and lined with rocks. Fire is started with woods, and once the rocks are hot enough, the wood is removed. The meat is then wrapped up with taro leaves and banana leaves and buried under the ground on top of the hot rocks. The food takes several hours to cook.

Everyday Foods

The following are some of the everyday Tongan dishes.

· Fish dishes are eaten every day in Tonga.

· Ota ika is raw fish served with onions, tomatoes, and coconut milk.

· Lo’I feke is octopus cooked in coconut cream.

· Lu is the wrapped up baked meat in taro leaves.

· Kapisi pulu is a dish of corned beef and cabbage in coconut cream.

· Salads made of chicken and potato.

Festival Foods

Tongans give a lot of importance to food, especially during celebrations. Spit-roasted pig is a traditional food made during festivals. Horse meat called lo’i ho’osi is also consumed during important occasions. The aikakai topai is a dessert of the Tongan cuisine. It is comprises topai (dumplings) served with sweet coconut syrup.

Health Benefits

Fish serves as a major source of protein in the Tongan diet. Root vegetables like cassava, sweet potato, and yam have very less fat content and are full of energy. They also have a significant amount of potassium and vitamin C, which helps boost immunity. Although coconut is a great source of energy and is cholesterol free, it still does have a significant amount of saturated fat, which is linked to chronic diseases. However, studies across the globe have revealed that the high amount of saturated fat from coconut does not cause a risk of heart disease. Thus, the Tongan food seems to be healthy, if consumed in moderation.