Ota Ika (Tongan Ceviche)

11:30 am on 23 May 2011

Ota IkaFrom Me'a Kai: The Food and Flavours of the South Pacific by Robert Oliver with Tracy Berno and Shiri Ram.
Published by Random House

Each Pacific nation has its own version of marinated (raw) fish in fresh coconut milk. Like the islands themselves, these dishes may look similar, but they are all quite different. Tonga’s ota ika has a lot more vegetables than Fiji’s kokoda, and is only briefly marinated.

Tupou (Bo) Riechelmann is the owner and grande dame of Nuku‘alofa’s Beach Hut Café on Faua Wharf. Bo buys all of her vegetables from local organic farms, so her version of the dish is both delicious and wildly healthy. Bo suggests you chill all the ingredients before you mix them, so you can serve the ota ika as soon as you’ve made it. If you are using canned coconut milk, make sure it is unsweetened, and shake the can well beforehand.

(Serves 4, generously)


  • 400 g fresh sashimi-quality tuna loin or snapper, cut into small dice
  • 2 medium-sized tomatoes, diced
  • 1 green capsicum, diced
  • small bunch of spring onions, finely diced
  • 3 small red chillies, finely diced
  • ½ cup peeled, seeded and diced cucumber
  • cup local lemon or lime juice
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • salt and pepper


Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Season, chill — if you haven’t already — and serve right away. The ota ika will separate if not eaten on the same day, and there’s no reason not to eat it all immediately.

Serve additional chillies on the side if you have Fijian guests! Ota Ika is fantastic with a cup of locally grown Kingdom Koffie.

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