5 Most Popular Food in Palau – What to Eat on Palau Island
The food in Palau is a fascinating fusion of several cuisines. Palauan food has been influenced by Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia and the USA. Any visit to this beautiful archipelago of over 500 islands and part of the Micronesia region in the Pacific Ocean must include a taste of traditional Palauan food.
The food in Palau ranges from Japanese style sashimi, sushi and bento boxes, to marinated grilled and stir-fried meats, classic fried chicken (thanks to the USA) and lots of rice.
The food in Palau relies heavily on root vegetables such as taro, pumpkin, yams and pandan. Coconut is an important ingredient used to flavour soups, fish dishes and Palauan desserts. Seafood is abundant on Palau island, and it accounts for a large portion of a typical Palauan diet.
Above all of these ingredients, rice is THE staple food in Palau, similar to Philippine culture. Most of the Palauan food or dishes you will try in Palau typically include a generous helping of steamed rice.
Palauan food you should try
1) Spam Musubi
Spam Musubi – Yummy snack food in Palau.
Spam musubi is a snack food made of a marinated, grilled piece of Spam on top of a small slab of soft sushi rice. This tasty snack is wrapped in omelette and held together with nori (seaweed). At $2 a piece found here in Koror, it’s the best value for money if you’re craving a cheap, filling and tasty snack.
We found these great little snacks at Yanos Market, our favourite little local place to pick up affordable and delicious local food in Palau. A great bite to pack for this awesome Rock Islands Full Day Tour.
Musubi is similar to Japanese onigiri. Add a little teriyaki, soy or hot sauce to it for more flavour. Musubi is popular here as Palau was a former Japanese colony. You may also find these tasty snacks if you visit Hawaii.
Ulkoy are shrimp and squash fritters that are deep-fried until golden. The all important crunchy texture is important. They’re also a super popular snack in the Philippines. These delicious snacks are typically served with a vinegar-based dipping sauce, ketchup, mayonnaise, or sweet and sour sauces are popular too.
Food in Palau – Ulkoy or shrimp and squash fritters
3) Tempura Fish
Fish is prepared in a number of different ways in Palau. Grilled, deep-fried, steamed or cooked in soup. Howeover, the crumbed or tempura deep-fried style of cooking fish in Palau is one of the most popular. Tempura fish fillet bites served with a creamy mayonnaise side or other dipping sauces are wonderul. Small shops sell packs of fresh fish each day, but you have to be quick.
The best food in Palau is fresh fish prepared in many different ways.
Usually by lunchtime, they’ve all sold out. It’s easy to order a (huge) scoop of fresh steamed rice from the shops also for a dollar or two extra as many shops have big rice steamers behind the counter.
4) Halo – halo
Another popular food in Palau, and it’s also considered a national dish in the Philippines. Halo-halo is a sweet dessert usually served after the main course in Palau. This custardy, sweet, and creamy dessert is delicious.
If you order this food in Palau, you may notice the addition of vanilla, brown sugar, and caramel added to your halo-halo. First impressions of this dish may look a little loud and over the top – but the flavours all work together, trust me. It might just be my favourite sweet food in Palau.
5) Taro Rosti
Taro is a plant that grows abundantly in Palau and the people are creative with this hearty root vegetable. Food in Palau with taro being the main ingredient is taro soup, cakes, salads or just steamed and eaten with fish, chicken or pork. If you get the chance though, you should try Taro Rosti.
It’s nothing fancy, but it’s yummy! It’s similar to potato pancakes eaten in other countries, but the potato is replaced with taro.
Taro is peeled, grated, then a little salt, pepper, and onion are added to the mix. Placed in a hot pan with oil and deep fried until delicious, of course, this is food in Palau you need to try. Often the simplest recipes bring the best joy, this is one of them. You’ll also discover that restaurants in Palau serve this much-loved dish usually as a side, so keep an eye out for it.
Do they really eat Fruit Bat soup as food in Palau?
The answer to this is yes. Fruit bat soup is considered the local delicacy in Palau. It’s popular because fruit bats naturally live on a fruit-based diet that results in sweet-tasting meat. The base of the soup is coconut milk, fresh ginger, spices, and other root vegetables. To prepare this dish, the bat is first washed in water and then cooked whole in the soup.
The proper way to consume this dish is to chew the bat and suck the sweet meat from the fur and leave the leftover, unedible fur in the bowl. Since the coronavirus pandemic swept across the world at the end of 2019, the start of 2020, the consumption of eating bats is now a little controversial.
Restaurants in Palau worth visiting
There are definitely some restaurants in Palau worth visiting. The most popular choices for best Palau restaurant are listed below:
– Elilai Restaurant and Bar – This is your top choice of restaurant in Palau. Elilai offers exceptional international cuisine influenced by Palauan and Pacific techniques and the menu is created from locally sourced produce. The best part is the picturesque seaside setting to enjoy while you dine. C
– The Taj – A taste of India in Palau. When we asked around town where we should eat a nice meal, everybody told us go to ‘The Taj’. It’s definitely not local Palauan cuisine, but it’s fantastic Indian food for sure.
– Tori Tori Restaurant – This small restaurant in Palau serves great Japanese food. The prices are affordable and you can choose from bento boxes, fresh sashimi, crumbed cutlets and delicious noodles.
Where to find Cheap Eats and Local Palauan food
It’s no secret that Palau is a pricey destination. It starts with expensive flights to get here, accommodation while you’re here and then eating once you’re here can be really expensive too. But, if you’re willing to eat local, you can get by without smashing through your budget. Here is my top place to find ‘Cheap Eats’ in Palau.
– Yanos Market– As I mentioned earlier, this small local shop offers great snacks, salads, and lunches. There are meals and snacks already packed to pick up and take away and hot food and steamed rice being served fresh each day too.
Visit Yanos Market located in the main street of Koror for best value snacks and lunches.
If you’d like to sit down in the small room at the back of the market and enjoy your lunch, the option is available for you. A great concept as they provide condiments available such as soy sauce, chilli sauce and sriracha. Yanos market is closed on Sundays.
– Q-Lala– If you walked past, you’d probably miss this place. It’s nothing fancy, but the plates of food here are freshly cooked, filling and tasty too. I’d describe the food here as Japanese style, meals such as crumbed pork cutlet and pork steak with rice. Meals are priced from $6 per plate. Find Q-Lala underneath Seafood Aristocrat Restaurant in the centre of town.
Marty at Q-Lala. Affordable Japanese food in Palau
– WCTC Shopping Centre Supermarket – There are a few small supermarkets in town, but I found this one to be the most affordable and they’ve got a section at the back where you can find hot food and bento boxes for $4.50. Bento boxes in Palau usually come with a generous portion of rice and then a portion of cooked meat.
The meat could be anything from braised pork, teriyaki chicken or stir-fried beef. I’d recommend visiting before 2pm for a bento box as they usually sell out by this time.
Best Things to do in Palau
Aside from eating some great food in Palau, there are some awesome things to do. Palau is known for being a diving paradise! It is world-renowned for its stunningisland panorama, pristine dive sites, kayaking, scenic flights, and world-class natural features, including the unique Rock Islands and fascinating Jellyfish Lake.
I recommend booking your activities online and securing reservations for your dates of travel.
Many day trips require a minimum number of at least 4 people to run and having day trips confirmed before your arrival is recommended for peace of mind. The most popular tours and day trips can be found below.
Make sure you get travel insurance before hitting the road. Trust us, it’s one of those things you don’t want to leave home without. We recommend either World Nomads or SafetyWing, depending on the type of traveller you are.
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Rach is a self-confessed travelling foodie. Her passion for food and culture has seen her eat her way through 190 countries. She's currently on a big food adventure to visit EVERY country in the world!
When Rach isn't travelling, you can find her at the beach, drinking coffee or wine with friends or chowing down on the best eats around her home city of Melbourne, Australia.