The Cook Islands are a tropical oasis, filled with outstanding scenery, amazing sights and attractions and friendly people. On top of all this, it’s also a place you can also enjoy some unique and delicious Cook Island food, unlike anything you’ve tried before!
To prove the point we’ve put together this list of 8 delightful dishes that you can try when you get here!
1. Ika Mata
Top of our list (and what should be the top of yours) is the traditional delicacy that is Ika Mata. Ika Mata translates to “raw fish” in Cook Island Maori but the dish itself offers more than this. It’s like a beautiful Polynesian salad, made with a base of coconut cream, finely chopped vegetables and raw fish, usually Marora (flying fish). Mixed together it creates a beautiful refreshing treat which we do our own version of at the Pacific Resort Rarotonga!
2. Curried Eke (Octopus)
Another great Cook Island dish is Curried Eke which is octopus (delicious in itself) presented the Island way. The ingredients for this one are extremely simple but work so well together. The prepared and cooked octopus is cooked again in coconut cream and onions with fragrant spices, garlic and seasoning to taste. That’s literally it but it tastes so good!
3. Banana Poke
For a sweet treat, you can’t go past Banana Poke (pronounced poh – key), which is not only tasty but a resourceful dish as well. This is because it’s what Cook Island people use their overripe bananas for. Cooked in a bit of coconut cream and a special ingredient of arrowroot and served with a generous amount of sugar, it’ll leave nothing but a smile on the face.
An incredibly nutritious Cook Island food is Rukau or Taro Leaves as they’re otherwise known. They are picked when they’re young and cooked (three times) in coconut cream and caramelised onions. It’s also sometimes served and mixed with corned beef but you can enjoy it just as satisfactorily as a vegetarian dish. Try this delicacy with breakfast at the luxurious Pacific Resort Aitutaki Nui!
Another great traditional Polynesian delicacy to try is Rori, also called Sea Cucumber. The Cook Islands are not short of these, as you may notice during your snorkelling expeditions, which is why the locals have cultivated a dish from it. It takes quite a bit of skill to prepare and cook Rori well, but when done right offers a great salty sweet taste. Often cooked with garlic, butter and herbs.
6. Locally Caught Fresh Tuna Sashimi
While Tuna isn’t necessarily unique to the Cook Islands they are abundant, beautifully fresh and must be experienced. You’ll be able to enjoy them in a multitude of ways but we always enjoy popping by Little Polynesian Restaurant to enjoy this delicacy. Light but nourishing, fresh sashimi is always a treat!
7. Tropical Fruit
With the same reasoning from the choice above, you simply have to make sure you enjoy the tropical fruit on offer on the island as they boast some of the best local produce in the South Pacific. What types of tropical fruits you say? You can expect to come across custard apples, star fruit, mangoes, passionfruit, pineapple, pawpaw and more. Makes for an unbeatable breakfast buffet at Pacific Resort Rarotonga, that’s for sure!
Last, but not least, a great thing to experience when it comes to Cook Island food is an Umukai, a Pacific Island Polynesian Feast fit for royalty. Similar to the New Zealand Hangi, food for an Umukai is cooked in an “Umu” (underground oven) that is filled with firewood and heated stones which the food, wrapped in banana leaves, are placed. The result is a magnificent banquet of tender meats and succulent vegetables leaving you with a belly full of goodness.
Some great Cook Island foods waiting to be discovered!
We hope you’ve enjoyed our list of 8 fantastic foods from the Cook Islands that you’ll be able to try on your next trip. Hopefully, the read hasn’t made you too hungry but has inspired you to make your visit sooner rather than later too!