Cuisine of New Caledonia
Dining out in New Caledonia is an integral part of enjoying life, and the restaurants, with their delicious food, are considered to be among the best in the South Pacific.
The French claimed New Caledonia in 1853 and their influence has led to the country’s unique identity and cuisine. Much of the food in New Caledonia is based on French-style cooking, and both coffee and wine are taken very seriously. The wide variety of French wines available is reasonably priced – as is the local beer.
A good place to begin your New Caledonian culinary travels is the bustling capital of Noumea, which boasts a superb selection of restaurants offering great food. There are about 130 eateries ranging from snack bars and sidewalk cafés to elegant restaurants where fine dining is the order of the day. You’ll also find many international cuisine styles reflecting the influence of other cultures such as Indonesian, Chinese, Italian, Mexican, Japanese, Vietnamese, Spanish and African. Seafood meals are a specialty and often feature fresh local food such as prawns, octopus and shellfish, as well as reef fish and deep-sea fish.
Bougna is the traditional Melanesian dish and it’s definitely worth a try. Bougna is a combination of chicken, lobster or fish with yams, bananas, sweet potatoes and coconut milk wrapped in banana leaves. The food is then steamed in an earth oven heated by hot stones. Bougna is served with a variety of other dishes, including seafood, coconut milk and tropical fruit.
An interesting specialty dish is Civet de Rousette or bat stew, a favourite with the locals. Other delicacies include small mangrove oysters (huitres de paletuviers) and a pastry filled with seafood and cream sauce (vol-au-vent des fruits de mer).
For a dining experience that’s a little different, try ‘table d’hotes’. Here, you’re welcomed into the homes of locals who serve you with meals of venison, wild pig, coconut crab and fish. This gives you the chance to sample some truly authentic food while you experience a taste of the local lifestyle and hospitality. The most popular ‘table d’hotes’ is at Mamie Fogliani, in Farino.
Restaurant hours are generally from 11.30am to 2.30pm and 7.00pm to 11.00pm.