The traditional dish which you will most likely be offered once during your stay is a root vegetable cake called lap lap. Essentially this is either manioc (cassava), sweet potato, taro or yam shaved into the middle of a banana leaf with island cabbage and sometimes a chicken wing on top. This is all wrapped up into a flat package and then cooked in hot stones underground till it all melts together into a cake. The best place to pick up some of this is at the food market in the town center.
This is a variation of lap lap with the cake rolled into a cylinder with meat in the middle. It tastes a lot like a sausage roll. You can find these again in the market (usually from mele village people) but they will be served from foam boxes to keep them warm.
Vanuatu's meat is renowned in the region. At the airports, you will see signs reminding you to pack the 25kg of meat permitted to other nearby island nations. The reason the meat's so good is that it's all naturally grown, with no feedlots or other problems of westernized mass production. The result of this is that the steaks are very good indeed.
As you may expect from an island nation, seafood is a common option and the quality is generally excellent. Reef fish are commonly found in restaurants, along with many varieties of prawns, lobster, and the delectable coconut crab.
The coconut crab is only found in parts of the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean and has been declining in numbers so rapidly that it is now a protected species in most areas. There is a minimum legal size requirement in Vanuatu of four centimeters, but the creature can grow to over 8 cm in length with a leg span of up to 90 cm. The crab gets its name from the fact that it climbs palms to cut down and eat coconuts - nothing to do with the flavor.
September 16, 2019
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