When it comes to food, the red carpet is out - Cook Islanders sure know how to cook and no shortcuts or short of hands everyone chips in and creates a feast fit for a king! Any gathering, event, church - whatever the excuse there is always an abundance a food for all to enjoy....
There are many types of places to choose to eat from in Rarotonga with restaurants ranging from top class cosmopolitan style eateries to friendly takeaway bars, funky island-style cafes and even ethnic restaurants (Italian, Asian, Thai, Cajun/Creole, Mexican and European).
The hugely popular Umukai is the traditional Polynesian feast and is prepared in an underground earth oven where food is wrapped in banana leaves and then steamed over hot stones. The flavour of foods cooked in an Umukai is just delicious and the meat is especially superbly tender and juicy.
Seafood, as you would expect, features highly in island menus - deepsea fish such as Tuna, Mahi Mahi (dolphin fish) and Parrot fish are most popular. Try a gourmet marlin-steak sandwich, or curried octopus (an island specialty).
One island dish not to miss is raw fish marinated in lime juice and mixed with coconut cream - Ikamata. Another speciality of the island is the fresh crayfish - Koru. Very few places in the world can offer you a delicacy of this calibre for the prices normally charged here.
Along with fresh fish and vegetables, visitors should sample the tantalising tropical fruits. Island fruits are absolutely beautiful. Pineapples in particular are juicy sweet, as are the pawpaws and the mangoes, lemons and limes, oranges, custard apple, star fruit, bananas, coconut....and plenty more exotic fruits!
Even if you don't try the fruit at night, you will find pineapples, pawpaw (papaya) and bananas with NU make a delicious breakfast – try an all fruit smoothie! Coconuts grow all year round, and produce Nu (the ckear sweet liquid inside the cooconut. And then the thick flesh with is grated to produce cream which is used in many island dishes - such as Ikamata and rukau (spicnah-like taro leaves). Sample other traditional local foods such as eke (octopus), kumara (sweet potato) and poke (pawpaw or banana pudding). Visitors should also seek out the unique breadfruit and taro, tried plain or in one of the myriad of ways the Cook Islanders prepare them to enhance their flavours.
There are many restaurants, hotels and resorts that offer local style food done in the Umu or in the kitchen with westernised food - topped with a local splash of produce to excite your tastebuds!