Niuafo’ou: The adventures in eating ofato

If one wishes to experience the reality of life in the island of Niufo’ou in the Kingdom of Tonga, they would encounter the unusual practice of being forced to eat a live grub. Kai ‘ofato! Eating Ofato! Is what the Niufo‘ouans always love to say.

This practice of eating ofato relates back to one of the kings of Tonga who liked to eat this delicacy. Ofato can only be found in the island of Niuafo’ou in the whole of the Tonga group.

Niufo‘ou natives have a reputation of proudly boasting that they can eat ofato.

They call it afato and non-natives called it ofato. Ofato can be eaten raw and immediately once it is removed from the log. It can be fried and can also be roasted or grill in open fire.

According to Niufo’ouan Seli Kata, when in its larvae stage of maturation it is called ofato. Similar to other native grubs and worms, ‘afato live in decomposed logs and rotting trees. When it reaches the pupae stage and becomes more recognizable as large, soft, white bug it is known as mulipuni in which is still edible but of a very different taste and texture.

The next stage of maturation is called tapo’ou and when at its adult stage it is called vikiviki or kivikivi. Once becoming a vikiviki it can fly out from the log and landed in trees where it would lay eggs at which stage it would die immediately after.

Niuaans say that if the grub is visible to other grubs in rotting logs they will die, hence the Tongan proverb – Tu’akoi ‘a ‘Ofato. Translated, this phrase means “mutual support of ofato, ” which describes a situation where two people living together in a place don’t get along with each other neighbors or they don’t help each other.

But Mr Kata told Kaniva that since ofato digest and store pulpy wood waste in its bowel, that waste needs to be removed when they are prepared for meal.

Seli kata
Seli Kata holding a live ofato with his teeth…..Yuk!

The usual way of cleaning it up is that they mix the grubs in a container with neat coconut milk so that the ofato absorb the milk, allowing them to excrete the pulpy waste.

Once the excretion takes place , the grubs can then be prepared to be eaten either raw or fried.

As part of welcoming foreigners to the island, natives always brag to them of how they eat ofato by enjoyably biting and keeping hold of a live ofato with the teeth leaving the larvae shaking and struggling for its life.

Even a bowlful of ofato can be eaten tastefully and in an exaggerated fashion with a mocking “ummmm – ifo atu (ummmm – extremely delicious).

Mr Kata said that people of Niuafo’ou find it delicious and many families depend on it for their daily meal.

It is said that one would not be recognized as having been to the beautiful island of Niuafo’ou if he had not endeavored to get a taste of the ofato.

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