Old Meets New: New Caledonia’s Fusion of Flavours

Seafood, venison and the tastiest tropical fruits on the planet.

New Caledonia’s culinary scene is as beautifully-diverse as its stunning landscape. Melanesian, Wallisian, Asian, Tahitian and French communities call this South Pacific paradise home and such cultural medley inevitably influences the culinary scene. Add to that the fact that New Caledonia is surrounded by the world’s largest lagoon and flanked by rural “cowboy country” in the west and the wonderful Kanak culture in the east, and it’s not hard to see why the archipelago yields scrumptious creations that tantalize the taste buds, thanks to the islands’ many talented chefs who are not at all afraid to experiment with new flavours, local ingredients and exotic spices.

Traditional French cooking can be found in the islands—there’s the classy Chez Toto restaurant in Noumea where duck confit, blanquette de veau, quenelles and delicious foie gras are on the menu along with other old French favourites—but no other place on earth also does French cuisine with tropical twist better than New Caledonia. Head to Au Petit Café or So Food restaurants for an explosion of intense flavours and colours that will surely make you ask for seconds. There’s fish fillet served with coconut gratin and sweet potato sides, and don’t miss the much-celebrate Poutine in l’Ed'Zen if you fancy a luxurious bowl of crispy fries topped with truffles and foie gras. There’s also La Pirogue, Le Meridien’s signature restaurant, which serves the famous Escargots de l'île des Pins. These large bulimes or snails endemic to the Isle of Pines’ pine forests are simmered in garlic and wine and cooked in traditional French fashion—you wouldn’t want to miss getting a taste!

One really marvellous thing about New Caledonia’s food scene is there’s always, always something to try no matter where you are in the island. Wander from the city and into the villages where a cavalcade of local dishes brimming with exotic flavours awaits travellers who are open to trying out new things. One local favourite and a highly-priced delicacy is Civet de Rousette or bat stew. Another is the huitres de paletuviers or small mangrove oysters, and vol-au-vent des fruits de mer or pastry filled with seafood and cream sauce. If there is one dish aside from the bulimes that anyone visiting New Caledonia ought to try though, it is bougna, the most traditional of all Melanesian dishes and an important feast dish of the Kanak people. “Bougna” derives from the Drehu word “puhnya” which means “bundle” or “pack” and that’s exactly what the dish looks like. It often consists of taro, sweet potato, yam, banana and pieces of fish, crab, chicken prawn or lobster drizzled with coconut milk and wrapped in banana leaves. The “bundle” is then steamed for about two hours in a ground oven heated by red-hot rocks. Looking for a truly authentic dining experience? Try to find a table d’hôtes where guests are welcomed into local homes and served with meals of fish, wild pig, venison and coconut crab.

Let New Caledonia Travel Connection’s wide range of special travel deals (External link) introduce you to this exciting gastronomic scene. Call now (1300 108 625) and give in to the tempting variety of flavours only New Caledonia can offer.