Traditional Samoan Food: 20 Foods to Try in Samoa
Traditional Samoan Food: 20 Foods to Try in Samoa

Traditional Samoan Food: 20 Foods to Try in Samoa 🥥

© SamoaPocketGuide.com

Traditional Food and Meals from Samoa

Travelling the world isn’t just a treat for the eyes but make it a treat for the tastebuds by sampling authentic traditional dishes. In Samoa, traditional Samoan food is made from staple ingredients such as taro, banana, breadfruit, coconut, fish and more which are creatively combined for a multitude of tastes and experiences. The best place to try traditional Samoan food is at fiafia nights or Sunday to’onai with an umu buffet giving you the opportunity to taste a bit of everything. On the other hand, many restaurants and markets also feature Samoan staples on their menus. So, scout out the dishes you’d like to try in Samoa using this list of traditional Samoan food!

What is an “Umu”?

One of the best ways to try a multitude of traditional Samoan dishes is with an umu. Umu is a traditional Samoan cooking method where food is slow-cooked in a hot-rock oven and covered with banana leaves. You’ll experience umu food at fiafia and to’onai events, while umu demonstrations are available at some tourist attractions. See the 10 Best Foodie Experiences in Samoa to learn more about umu demonstrations.

1. Palusami

An iconic Samoan food, palusami is taro leaves cooked in coconut cream to make a rich and creamy dish. It’s traditionally cooked in a hot-rock oven called an umu. The taro leaves have to be cooked and cut just right or else it can make the consumer ill! Don’t worry, Samoans know what they’re doing when it comes to cooking palusami. What’s more, it won’t be difficult to find on restaurant menus and fiafia nights across the islands.

Where to try: Return to Paradise Resort (Lefaga, Upolu), Scalini’s/Pickled Lam (Apia), Falealupo Beach Fales (Falealupo, Savai’i), Tanu Beach Fales (Manase, Savai’i), Seabreeze Resort (Aufaga, Upolu) and any fiafia night! Check out the 10 Best Fiafia Nights in Samoa for suggestions.

Traditional Samoan Food: 20 Foods to Try in Samoa© SamoaPocketGuide.com

2. Oka

A staple of Samoa and many other Pacific nations, oka is raw fish marinated in coconut cream with a few other spices or chillis for extra flavour. You’ll find oka available as an entrée at many restaurants across Samoa, hopefully, presented in a coconut shell for a truly authentic island look!

Where to try: Nourish Cafe (Apia), Bistro Tatau (Apia), The Edge Marina (Apia), Paddles Restaurant (Apia), Kokobanana (Apia), Island Grill (Apia), Va-i-Moana Seaside Lodge (Asau, Savai’i), Amoa Resort (Faga, Savai’i), Return to Paradise Resort (Lefaga, Upolu), Saletoga Sands Resort (Matatufu, Upolu), Lava Hotel (Apia), Jet Over Hotel (Salelologa, Savai’i), Apia Night Market (Apia), and more!

Traditional Samoan Food: 20 Foods to Try in Samoa© SamoaPocketGuide.com

3. Koko Alaisa

The perfect comfort food, koko alaisa or koko rice is simply boiled rice, koko (Samoan cocoa) and coconut milk! Although it makes a nice dessert, most travellers will try koko rice for breakfast at resorts and beach fales.

Where to try: Taufua Beach Fales (Lalomanu, Upolu), Va-i-Moana Seaside Lodge (Asau, Savai’i), Return to Paradise Resort (Lefaga, Upolu), Amoa Resort (Faga, Savai’i) and many more beach fales and resorts.

Traditional Samoan Food: 20 Foods to Try in Samoa© SamoaPocketGuide.com

4. Supo Esi

Another tropical yet hearty breakfast food, supo esi (or papaya soup) is the Samoan answer to porridge but tastier! The dish is made sweet with coconut milk, papaya and sometimes coconut flakes. Again, try it at your resort or beach fale for breakfast.

Where to try: Taufua Beach Fales (Lalomanu, Upolu), Va-i-Moana Seaside Lodge (Asau, Savai’i), Return to Paradise Resort (Lefaga, Upolu), Amoa Resort (Faga, Savai’i) and many more beach fales and resorts.

Traditional Samoan Food: 20 Foods to Try in Samoa© SamoaPocketGuide.com

5. Keke Saiga

One of the most widely distributed and easiest Samoan snacks to find in Samoa, keke saiga, also known as Chinese biscuits, are hard biscuits made out of two different doughs to make their iconic star/flower shape. Often sold in bags of 5 to 10, they make for a filling road trip snack as you’re exploring the islands.

Where to try: Sula Supermarket & Bakery (Moataa, Apia) and just about any convenience store or supermarket in Samoa. Find out more in A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in Samoa.

Traditional Samoan Food: 20 Foods to Try in Samoa© SamoaPocketGuide.com

6. Sapasui

The Samoan version of chop suey, sapasui has been a favourite dish since the influx of Chinese migrants under Germany’s rule in Samoa – see A Brief History of Samoa. There are many variations of this dish, usually made with pork (pua’a) or chicken (moa), taro leaves and carrots with a vermicelli noodle base and served with rice or taro (talo) on the side.

Where to try: Fugalei Market (Apia), Apia Night Market (Apia), Falealupo Beach Fales (Falealupo, Savai’i), roadside BBQs and many more beach fales in Samoa.

Traditional Samoan Food: 20 Foods to Try in Samoa© SamoaPocketGuide.com

7. Palolo

The turquoise or reddish tails of the reef worm released to the ocean’s surface on the waning moon of October or November (or sometimes both) are a delicacy in Samoa. Palolo has a strong salty seafood taste, reminiscent of oysters, mussels, seaweed and caviar all condensed into a stringy noodle-like form. Palolo is usually only available to try up to a few weeks after the Palolo Rising event, sold either in its raw or cooked form at the local markets – see 8 Best Markets in Samoa, or on the specials boards of restaurants if you’re lucky!

Where to try: Fugalei Market (Apia) and Apia Fish Market (Apia) when in season.

Traditional Samoan Food: 20 Foods to Try in Samoa© SamoaPocketGuide.com

8. Banana and Taro Chips

Swap potato chips for the island flavours of banana or taro chips while visiting Samoa. Banana chips have a slightly sweeter taste, while taro is usually plainer. But both are coated in salt and have the satisfying crunch that we all love chips for.

Where to try: Sula Supermarket & Bakery (Moataa, Apia) and just about any convenience store or supermarket in Samoa. Find out more in A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in Samoa.

Traditional Samoan Food: 20 Foods to Try in Samoa© SamoaPocketGuide.com

9. Panikeke

These deep-fried dough balls are a favourite among the islanders! Instead of flat pancakes, panikeke or Samoan pancakes are made into balls, reminiscent of a tasty doughnut.

Where to try: YGC Store (Moto’otua, Apia), Jet Over Hotel (Salelologa, Savai’i) and other village convenience stores with bakeries.

Traditional Samoan Food: 20 Foods to Try in Samoa© SamoaPocketGuide.com

10. Keke Pua’a

A favourite Samoan snack with perhaps some Chinese influence, Samoan pork buns or keke pua’a are steamed buns with a flavoursome pork and soy sauce filling.

Where to try: Sula Supermarket & Bakery (Moataa, Apia), Rosie’s Take Out (Apia), Salelologa Market (Savai’i), Fugalei Market (Apia) and other village convenience stores with bakeries.

Traditional Samoan Food: 20 Foods to Try in Samoa© SamoaPocketGuide.com

11. German Buns

Similar to keke pua’a, German buns are steamed buns but filled with either caramelised grated coconut or siamu popo (coconut jam) – siamu popo is also widely available in Samoan supermarkets, as a bonus food to try in Samoa! It’s not quite obvious where German buns got their unusual name but one theory is that it was when Samoans were misheard saying “jam in buns” in English.

Where to try: Village convenience stores with bakeries.

Traditional Samoan Food: 20 Foods to Try in Samoa© SamoaPocketGuide.com

12. Fai’ai Elegi

Fai’ai elegi is fish cooked with coconut cream and a few other flavours like onions to enhance the dish. It’s typically served in the shell of the coconut that has been grated for the meal. Scooping out the creamy fish with a piece of talo is the way to go!

Where to try: Fugalei Market (Apia), Apia Night Market (Apia) and some Sunday to’onai and fiafia nights.

Traditional Samoan Food: 20 Foods to Try in Samoa© Samoa Tourism Authority

13. Paifala

Yes, there’s even a pie that oozes with the taste of the islands in Samoa, quite literally as hot sweet pineapple gloops out with each bite! Paifala or pineapple half-moon pie is the ultimate snack to fuel a sightseeing trip around the islands!

Where to try: Palauli Convenience Store (Palauli, Savai’i) and village convenience stores with bakeries.

Traditional Samoan Food: 20 Foods to Try in Samoa© SamoaPocketGuide.com

14. Dried Fruit

Not all snacks in Samoa need to be quite as unhealthy though thanks to dried fruit products like those from Ifiele’ele Organics. Try pineapple, banana and papaya like you never have before! You can even stay at and tour the plantation where they are made at Ifiele’ele Plantation.

Where to try: Ifiele’ele Plantation (Fasito’outa, Upolu) and Farmer Joe’s supermarkets.

Traditional Samoan Food: 20 Foods to Try in Samoa© SamoaPocketGuide.com

15. Masi Popo

Another biscuit snack in Samoa, masi popo might look a bit bland but these coconut biscuits leave your standard shortbread in the dust! They are usually sold in substantial bags alongside keke saiga in convenience stores and supermarkets.

Where to try: Just about any convenience store or supermarket in Samoa. Find out more in A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in Samoa.

Traditional Samoan Food: 20 Foods to Try in Samoa© SamoaPocketGuide.com

16. Koko

While traditionally coming in the form of paste to make koko Samoa (see 14 Drinks in Samoa You Have to Try), Samoan koko (cocoa) can actually be found in many forms like chocolate bars and cocoa powder for baking such as by brands like Koko Loa and Ms Sunshine Organic Farms. They make the ideal souvenir to take home, along with 10 Best Souvenirs & Gifts from Samoa.

Where to try: Frankie Supermarkets and Frankie Faleolo International Airport (Departures Lounge).

Traditional Samoan Food: 20 Foods to Try in Samoa© SamoaPocketGuide.com

17.  Uncle Johnny’s Ice Cream

Nothing beats ice cream on a hot day in Samoa and the country even has its own brand of ice cream to keep things local! Uncle Johnny’s comes in the form of fruity-flavoured ice cream on sticks to tubs of ice cream. You’ll no doubt see the trucks restocking convenience stores as you travel around the islands.

Where to try: Just about any convenience store or supermarket in Samoa. Find out more in A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in Samoa.

Traditional Samoan Food: 20 Foods to Try in Samoa© SamoaPocketGuide.com

18. Fresh Fruit

Whether it’s for breakfast at your resort/beach fale or picked up from the market, fresh tropical fruit is in abundance and is a food that is well worth trying in Samoa! From the sweetest pineapples you ever did taste to the smoothest papayas, there’s plenty to excite the senses! Check out some delicious fruit to taste and see when they are in season in the 10 Exotic Fruits in Samoa You Have to Try!

Where to try: For breakfast at just about every accommodation that provides breakfast in Samoa. Roadside fruit stalls and markets as listed in the 8 Best Markets in Samoa.

Traditional Samoan Food: 20 Foods to Try in Samoa© SamoaPocketGuide.com

19. Talo, Ulu, Fa’i and More

The savoury vegetables and fruit of Samoa are also worth trying in Samoa! Starchy staples like talo (taro), ulu (breadfruit) and fa’i (green bananas) are often served as a side dish with Samoan meals, while some even star in their own dish like fa’alifu fa’i or fa’alifu kalo/talo cooked in coconut cream.

Where to try: Fugalei Market (Apia), Apia Night Market (Apia) and any fiafia night! Check out the 10 Best Fiafia Nights in Samoa for suggestions.

Traditional Samoan Food: 20 Foods to Try in Samoa© SamoaPocketGuide.com

20. I’a

I’a or “fish” has been the main source of protein in Samoa for centuries. While many families have members catching fish from paopao or from the reefs, most will pick up fresh catches from the Apia Fish Market or roadside stalls. Trying fresh fish in whatever form you prefer, whether raw sashimi style or cooked to perfection, is a must in Samoa!

Where to try: Just about every restaurant, resort, beach fale or fiafia night will have fish on the menu. You could even go on a fishing charter to catch your own!

Traditional Samoan Food: 20 Foods to Try in Samoa© SamoaPocketGuide.com

More About Samoan Food and Foods in Samoa

That’s it for our list of traditional Samoan food, dishes, meals and desserts to try! Explore more gastronomical experiences through the following guides:

Finally, plan a trip around Samoa with food in mind using the following itineraries: Samoa Food Itinerary: 3 Days, Samoa Food Itinerary: 5 Days, Samoa Food Itinerary: 7 Days, Samoa Food Itinerary: 10 Days and Samoa Food Itinerary: 14 Days.

Author

Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Samoa Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in the South Pacific over 10 years ago with nothing but a backpack and a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to explore a paradise such as Samoa. She knows the islands inside out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience Upolu and Savai’i’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also the editor of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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