What to eat in New Caledonia
When you're spending every day swimming, participating in cultural activities, and exploring the islands' breathtaking landscapes, it's inevitable that you'll work up an appetite but luckily there's plenty of New Caledonian food to keep you properly satisfied such as the traditional bougna, lots of fresh seafood, and civet de rousette. New Caledonian cuisine blends Melanesian food with French flair and showcases fresh, local produce such as crab, prawns, oysters, and fish in almost every meal.
To complete your New Caledonian experience, we recommend trying the foods below (even though some of them might be out of your comfort zone). Happy eating!
Coming from the Drehu word meaning 'bundle' or 'pack', bougna is a traditional New Caledonian dish that is made up of various root vegetables and a choice of chicken, fish or other seafood, that is then wrapped in banana leaves and is placed over a fire to cook. Originating as part of Kanak culture and enjoyed at tribal gatherings, this dish can now be found at most restaurants across the island.
2. Fresh seafood
It makes sense, with New Caledonia being surrounded by water, that seafood is the main staple in the diet of locals and travellers to the country. From blue prawns (sweeter than normal prawns) and coconut crabs (crabs that feed on coconut) to salmon fillets and crayfish, if it lives in the water, you can probably find it on the menu at all local restaurants.
While beef and pork are still widely used in dishes across the island, venison has become increasingly popular in recent times thanks to the rise in the deer population. You might not necessarily feel like a hearty, warm meal when it's 25C+ outside but once you take the first bite of a venison stew or sausage, you're not going to want to put your knife and fork down. Prepared in too many ways to count, you can expect to see venison on the majority of restaurant menus, making it easy to try this rich and earthy meat.
4. Civet de Rousette
In case you didn't study French in high school (or if you did and now can't remember anything you learnt), civet de rousette is French for bat stew. While this might sound unappetizing, civet de rousette is actually a traditional delicacy and consists of red wine-marinated carrots, leeks, and pieces of fruit bat. Interestingly, this dish can have a variety of flavours depending on the type of bat used and what the bat itself has eaten, ensuring no two dishes are ever exactly the same.
5. Pineapple and fish balls
On first thought, the combination of pineapple and fish might not be the most mouthwatering to your tastebuds, but trust us when we say this dish will take you by surprise - in the best way. Boasting a delicious tropical flavour, these balls are considered to be a New Caledonian delicacy and are typically served hot with a mixture of breadfruit, cooked taro, and rice.
Savoury meals are good and all but you can't see you've experienced the entirety of New Caledonia's culinary scene without trying something that's a little sweeter. Pronounced 'poe-ay', this dessert dish is New Caledonia's answer to a traditional pudding, consisting of either pumpkin or banana that is then served with thick coconut cream. Aside from being absolutely delicious, this dish's texture is that of a rice flour pudding and will definitely have you coming back for seconds.
France has escargot and New Caledonia has bulime; a dish consisting of marinated snails stuffed with parsley and garlic butter from the Isle of Pines. Typically prepared in a French fashion with wine and herbs, these salty specimens can be eaten on their own or enjoyed as part of a wider meal alongside soup or bougna.
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