Bougna is the most traditional dish you’ll find in New Caledonia and a great example of the local Kanak cuisine, rather than French influence. It’s made of chicken, lobster or fish mixed with root vegetables such as yams, sweet potatoes and coconut milk, wrapped up in banana leaves. The parcels are then placed into an earth oven where they cook over the hot rocks. This style of cooking is common in the Pacific Islands, although the ingredients will vary between the nations.
Stewed bat, anyone? It might not sound particularly appetising if you’ve never sampled a rousette (literal translation: flying fox), but bat stew is a popular dish in New Caledonia. The bat meat is often left to marinate in a red wine sauce before being prepared as a ragout.
Mangrove oysters and crab are frequently found throughout New Caledonia. Like most seafood in New Caledonia, the oysters are usually served in a natural state with a simple vinaigrette while the crab is frequently accompanied with a mayonnaise or aoli.
The coconut crab is particularly unique to the Loyalty Islands, where they have become a local specialty in Ouvea. The crab, which is also found on the island of Niue and some other parts of the Pacific feeds off coconuts. Its pincers are incredibly strong as they need to have the strength to crack open the coconuts to survive. It’s usually served as a coconut curry.
A seafood vol au vent is a French influenced pastry dish. It’s a bit like a seafood chowder in a puff pastry casing. It usually consists of mussels, New Caledonian prawns, fish fillets and scallops, combined in a cream sauce before being dished into the pastry shell.
On the Isle of Pines, the local delicacy is a snail endemic to the island. Known as the bulime, it is usually cooked in soups, added to bougna, or simply with garlic and herb butter.
The famous litopenaeus stylirostris is a rare blue prawn which has become a famous delicacy worldwide. It’s believed the blue hue comes from the prawns feeding on plankton in the turquoise New Caledonian lagoon. The blue prawns grown in New Caledonia must meet a strict set of criteria including low density farming and no antibiotics or other treatments to boost growth. With this careful breeding ground, the blue prawns have been able to uphold the highest standards of quality, making their way on to some of the world’s top menus.
The mainland of New Caledonia, Grande Terre, is practically famous for its venison. Deer hunting is extremely popular in New Caledonia, with the Javan Rusa Deer targeted every year between July and October, as they are a major pest on the mainland. Therefore, it’s no surprise venison is a popular dish among locals. It’s often made into skewers, stewed, put in a salad or turned into a ragout.