Dining & Nightlife in Papua New Guinea
Western-style food is available in most major centres, and there are some excellent Asian-style restaurants adding variety to the mix. Throughout the country, many guesthouses and hotels have restaurants attached. They tend to offer traditional dishes such as banana, pitpit, taro and other vegetables cooked with either chicken, fish or pork in coconut milk. Five-star hotels and the various luxury lodges offer fine dining options, catering for the top-end travellers.
Visitors on a budget can easily self-cater if they wish, and many of the cheaper accommodation options have access to a communal kitchen. The supermarkets stock a range of products including tinned fish and beef (a legacy of World War II), or you can pick up a packet of the giant Kundu crackers that are a firm favourite with locals. For fresh food and vegetables, try browsing the markets for seasonal produce. It’s an interesting way to mix with the locals as well. Those wanting to sample traditional fare can visit one of the many ‘kai kai’ bars, which serve up dishes kept warm by a large steamer. In coastal areas and some river provinces, there is also excellent fresh seafood, including delicious crab and crayfish.
In the low-lying regions, the staple food is saksak (sago) while in the fertile soil of the Highlands, kaukau (sweet potato) and other vegetables are grown, along with bananas. Chicken is popular and pork is also eaten, although pigs are highly prized by local cultures and are usually reserved for ceremonial feasts.
Cultural feasts are hosted on special occasions like a wedding, death, initiation ceremony, or at a tribal reconciliation. The traditional cooking method is the mumu, or underground oven. A pit is dug and fire-heated stones are placed inside. Meat and vegetables are wrapped in leaves and placed on the hot stones to cook, and the pit is covered with leaves and branches to seal the oven. When a special feast is celebrated, the mumu can be several hundred metres long and filled with hundreds of pigs.
The Highlands of Papua New Guinea are renowned for their coffee (the arabica variety is most widely grown), so the fresh coffee is excellent. For a taste of the local brew, sample the homegrown beers from South Pacific brewery. The SP brownie is the basic brew, and there’s a stronger ‘export’ version in a can. You can also buy wine and spirits, although they tend to be expensive.
Most of the nightlife is limited to the capital of Port Moresby and the larger provincial centres. The larger hotels will generally have a weekend disco and there will often be a live band as well. Check the entertainment listings of the local paper for other options, but take care when you are visiting venues outside the hotel premises.