• Solomon Islands!

    Solomon Islands: Looking up at palm trees. Go Now!

    Solomon Islands
    This Melanesian country is best known for its many islands and beaches... and this natural landscape (pictured) is why most people go. Don't miss out on the unique Melanesian culture and foods though! Begin Your Journey!

  • Tonga!

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  • Vanuatu!

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  • Explore the: Federated States of Micronesia!

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Food, Dining, & Drinks in the Federated States of Micronesia

Historic Diet

Many of the Federated States of Micronesia's islands are volcanic in origin, meaning they are quite fertile and plants grow well. Despite this, there are few plants or animals that are native to these islands, especially edible plants so the potential diet prior to the arrival of the first people was very limited.

The most important plant used for food in the Federated States of Micronesia is the coconut, which made its way to the islands by water. The coconut is the staple food for the people in the past and this continues today as this food is used for its milk and flesh. The coconut is one of the only plants that made its way to these islands prior to the first settlers, who brought many additional foods that create the base of today's diet.

When these first settlers arrived with their new plants and animals, they found plenty of sea life in the waters surrounding these islands and these animals made up a large part of their diet both historically and today. Among these sea animals are crabs, clams, turtles, fish, and sea birds.

Culinary Influences

The first culinary influence to reach the Federated States of Micronesia likely came with the first wave of people to the islands about 4,000 years ago. Either this group of people or later groups brought with them pigs, rats, and dogs, all of which they used for food. One of these early waves of people also brought plants including taro, rice, yams, breadfruit, bananas, lemons, and sugarcane. Since there were numerous waves of people to the islands, it is unknown when or with whom these foods arrived, but they were definitely present by the 1200s.

Through these various waves of settlers to the islands the diet changed, but to what extend and with what additions is unknown. By the time the last large migration took place the traditional diet on the islands was well established and has continued for centuries. This diet, both then and now, is primarily based on pork, fish, yams, taro root, coconuts, rice, and the many fruits found on the islands, including breadfruit.

Although the Portuguese arrived in the 1500s, there was little European influence on the islands until the 1800s when settlement began. The Spanish and later the Germans settled to a degree and they brought with them foods that they were familiar with, including both plants and animals. This included cattle, chickens, wheat, potatoes, and pineapples among others. Some of these introduced foods, primarily the fruits, have been incorporated into the local diet, including papayas, pineapples, and mangoes.

In about 1900 the Japanese took control of the islands and they settled the region to a vast degree. This led to vast changes in the food and diet as the Japanese ate exactly what they ate at home, so began importing or growing these foods on the islands. However, the Japanese influence was short-lived as they were forcibly removed from the islands during World War II, leaving behind some traces of their diet, but most of it left with them. Unfortunately, these fierce battles led to the loss of much of the arable farmlands on some islands. Luckily this fighting was limited in area and after the war the islands have since been able to recover.

Today the diet remains somewhat divided between the local people and the foreigners. Throughout the islands most of the people maintain their historic diet along with the new additions from the past, but few people have abandoned their historic diet for a more European-styled one. However, tourism is rising in the Federated States of Micronesia and today there are many tourists on some islands. Because of this there is a growing number of ethnic restaurants in the country, including Korean, Chinese, Italian, and American food. Many locals are also gaining interest in these foods as they are quickly growing in popularity.

When & Where to Eat

Many people in the Federated States of Micronesia start the day with coffee or tea as well as a small breakfast, including a bread of some sort, fruit, and sometimes even fish or rice. Breakfast is usually eaten at home prior to school or the workday.

Lunch was traditionally the largest meal of the day in the Federated States of Micronesia 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 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, which is typically eaten at home, tends to be the largest meal of the day and can go on for hours as many of the above mentioned foods are served.

Staple Foods

Breadfruit (ulu): this fruit is very common, especially on some islands like Chuuk
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 throughout the South Pacific
Yams: yams, a member of the potato family, are found in most meals and hold a special place in the local culture, especially on Pohnpei

Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes

One favorite local dish is thin slices of raw fish and breadfruit dipped in a pepper sauce.

Dining Etiquette

Dining etiquette in the Federated States of Micronesia is quite varied and relaxed as there seems to be a large divide between the locals and the restaurants catered to tourists. Due to this, people tend to eat in numerous ways and nearly all are acceptable, although in extreme cases you may be looked at oddly.

If dining with locals be observant of customs and how others eat as this varies as well. Generally speaking, let your local host show you a seat, then be polite and try everything. Accepting food is a sign of appreciation and not trying the foods offered to you is an insult to your host. On the other extreme, eating as much as you can shows great appreciation. Of course eating all of their food is a bad idea as well; the people believe food is to be shared by all as families and neighbors often share food and you should be sure to eat only as much as your present company. Whether or not you leave food on your plate when you're finished eating is up to you.

Most of the people eat with their hands and children are often fed first. Some families may have and provide forks, but this is not always the case and is not the traditional method of eating. Of course if you're dining at a restaurant you will be provided silverware (cutlery) and are expected to use it. In these settings eating in the continental style (knife in the right hand, fork in the left) is the most common, but generally the etiquette is relaxed so eating in nearly any style will be fine, again depending on your company.

If you do eat in a restaurant and are paying the bill, it is important to remember that tipping is not customary in the Federated States of Micronesia and you should not bring this custom to the islands. Service is viewed by the locals as a means of hospitality as diners are viewed as guests.

Celebrations & Events

At most celebrations and holidays, sakau (or kava) is almost always present. This drink (which is described below) tends to accompany celebrations when it is typically drunk prior to dinner and creates a strong relaxing effect.


Today all popular international beverages can be found in the larger towns of the Federated States of Micronesia, including juices, soft drinks, tea, and coffee. However for a more authentic taste of the South Pacific try kava or sakau. This drink, which goes by both names in the Federated States of Micronesia, 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, yet is not considered a drug in the countries of the South Pacific. Another common non-alcoholic drink in the Federated States of Micronesia is lime juice with water.

Alcohol has a significant role in the culture of the Federated States of Micronesia today as beer and hard liquor are both popular. This has led to some problems and the island of Chuuk has actually outlawed liquor entirely. While beer seems to be the most popular alcohol, with hard liquor a distant second, nearly all types of alcohol are available for tourists in hotels and nice restaurants.

Generally speaking, the tap water is safe to drink in the Federated States of Micronesia, but check with locals for any particular regional differences. Also, 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.

This page was last updated: April, 2013