Tongan Ceviche Recipe: A Taste of Tropical Paradise

Ahoy, my fellow food adventurers! Today, I want to take you on a culinary journey to Tonga with a recipe for a dish called Oka Ita. This is the national dish of Tonga and is more commonly known as Tongan Ceviche or Ita Tongan.

Oka Ita is a delectable raw fish salad that has been a part of Tongan cuisine for centuries. Made from fresh fish, lime juice, coconut milk, and an array of vegetables and spices, this dish is both refreshing and satisfying.

But what sets Oka Ita apart from other ceviche recipes is the use of ota ika or raw fish instead of cooked fish. This may seem daunting, but trust me, the way the lime juice and coconut milk “cook” the fish gives it a tender texture and mouth-watering flavor that is worth trying.

Not only is this dish delicious, but it also has cultural significance in Tonga. It’s often served during ceremonial occasions and family gatherings, making it a beloved part of their heritage.

So come along with me on this journey and immerse yourself in the flavors and traditions of Tonga with this mouthwatering Oka Ita recipe.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Oka Ita (Tongan Ceviche)
Oka Ita (Tongan Ceviche)

Folks, let me tell you about the culinary masterpiece that is Oka Ita, or Tongan Ceviche. This dish is the Tennessee River of flavors – cool, refreshing, and packed with zest. I have to admit, while I’ve tried numerous ceviche recipes, the addition of coconut milk in this Tongan version adds a new dimension that I absolutely love.

But why should you try Oka Ita? For starters, it’s Tonga’s national dish. You don’t get much more authentically Tongan than this – it’s like a passport that will transport you straight to the islands. And let’s face it: when summer hits, there’s nothing better than raw fish salad.

Oka Ita shines above other ceviche recipes because of its selection of fresh ingredients. We’re talking seasoned sushi-grade tuna filets, diced tomatoes and cucumber, chopped green and hot red chili peppers, with a splash of lime and lemon juice for that perfect citrus balance. How can anyone say no to those flavors?

This recipe may be a national treasure in Tonga, but it belongs in every kitchen around the world. Whether you make it your go-to summer staple or simply serve it on special occasions, I guarantee Oka Ita will be adored by everyone who tries it. Trust me folks; with one bite and you’ll be hooked like a river bass!

Ingredient List

 A colorful burst of fresh flavors in every bite of Oka Ita!
A colorful burst of fresh flavors in every bite of Oka Ita!

Here are the fresh ingredients you’ll need to make this Tongan national dish, Oka Ita, also known as Tongan Ceviche. This is a raw fish salad that combines the flavors of tuna, lime juice, and coconut milk.

  • 4 lb tuna filets, sushi grade
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1/3 hot red chili pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk
  • Juice of 6 fresh limes

– Cooked shrimp, cut in halves or thirds
– Mangoes, diced
– Avocado, diced

Make sure to select fresh fish for this recipe! You may also use other types of fish such as salmon or shrimp instead of tuna to make a variety of ceviche recipes.

The Recipe How-To

 The perfect appetizer for any island-themed party or gathering.
The perfect appetizer for any island-themed party or gathering.

Here we go! In this section, you will learn how to make my oka ita (Tongan ceviche) recipe. Let’s dive in and get started.


  • 4 lb tuna filets (sushi grade)
  • 2 tomatoes (diced)
  • 1 green pepper (seeded and diced)
  • 1/3 hot red chili pepper
  • 1 cucumber (diced)
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk


  1. In a large bowl, combine the diced tomatoes, green pepper, hot red chili pepper, and cucumber.

  2. Cut the tuna into bite-sized pieces and add them to the bowl with the vegetables.

  3. Add the lime juice, lemon juice, and coconut milk (add more or less according to your preference).

  4. Mix everything together well.

  5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour to let the flavors meld together.

  6. Serve cold and enjoy!


  • Be sure to use sushi grade tuna for the freshest taste.
  • You can use other types of raw fish such as salmon if you prefer.
  • Add more or less chili pepper depending on your spice tolerance.
  • To make it more like a samoan ceviche, add in some shrimp and coconut milk.

That’s it! Follow these easy steps and impress your guests with this flavorful oka ita [tongan ceviche] dish!

Substitutions and Variations

 Tangy and savory, this Tongan Ceviche will leave you wanting more.
Tangy and savory, this Tongan Ceviche will leave you wanting more.

“Well, if you’re looking to add a bit of kick to this dish, I’d suggest swapping out the hot red chili pepper for a habanero. Nothing puts hair on your chest quite like some habanero, eh?

Now, if you’re not quite up for the heat, you could always opt for a milder jalapeño or even just omit the spicy pepper altogether. Don’t let the chili be the only thing keeping you from enjoying this Tongan ceviche.

If you’re looking to mix things up and have some fun with it, why not add in cooked shrimp or crab for a little twist on the traditional raw fish salad? Or perhaps try poaching salmon in coconut milk to create your own variation of salmon ceviche. The possibilities are endless when it comes to mixing and matching ingredients.

And if you’re feeling particularly bold, try adding in some diced pineapple to elevate that tropical sweetness that already exists within this dish. Trust me, it’ll take this ota ika delicious tongan recipe to a whole new level.

Almost like samoan ceviche, but not quite. Every person has their own way of cooking and adding their own personal touch to dishes. How will you make this the perfect ceviche for your taste buds?”

Serving and Pairing

 Bright and citrusy, this dish is almost too pretty to eat!
Bright and citrusy, this dish is almost too pretty to eat!

Now that your Oka Ita Tongan Ceviche is prepared, it’s time to serve it up like a true Tongan local. This dish is typically enjoyed as the main course of a meal, accompanied by steaming hot taro root or cassava. You can also pair it with a side dish of cooked rice to make for a more filling meal.

In Tongan culture, meals are often shared with family and friends as a sign of love and hospitality. Your Oka Ita should be no exception! Serve it in a large bowl with spoons, allowing everyone to scoop up as much fish salad as they please. Garnish each serving with slices of ripe avocado and a sprinkle of finely chopped cilantro for added flavor and color.

For drinks, you can’t go wrong with ice-cold beer or refreshing coconut water. The lightness and freshness of the ceviche pairs well with citrusy beers or tropical-flavored drinks. Alternatively, you can serve your Oka Ita with a glass of crisp white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc.

As you savor each bite of this delicious Tongan national dish, take in the flavors and imagine yourself on the sandy beaches of Samoa or cooking over an open fire pit under the beating sun. Feel free to experiment with different pairings and let your taste buds experience something new and exciting.

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 Impress your friends with this easy-to-make yet impressive-looking dish.
Impress your friends with this easy-to-make yet impressive-looking dish.

Now, let’s talk about how to make-ahead Oka Ita – Tongan Ceviche and store it properly. Similar to most ceviche recipes, Oka Ita is best prepared fresh and consumed immediately while fish is still raw. However, you can prepare it ahead of time by marinating the fish in lime juice and lemon juice for a maximum of two hours in the refrigerator.

If you find yourself with leftovers, ensure that they are stored correctly in an airtight container and kept chilled in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours only. Although, I must say that the texture of the fish will be different than when freshly made. To keep toppings fresh, store them separately in containers covered with cling wrap in the fridge.

When you finally decide to serve your stored Oka Ita, don’t just eat it out of the container or straight from the fridge. Allow it to come down to room temperature before serving for added flavor and smoother texture. You may also add a bit of freshness by adding chopped vegetables afterwards.

Reheating Oka Ita isn’t recommended since cooking will spoil the texture of the raw fish. So, if you have leftovers, consuming raw is still your best option.

That being said, if you’re also planning on serving other types of ceviche alongside Tongan Ceviche, coconut milk and shrimp are excellent additions as well as other seafood like salmon ceviche or poisson cru from Samoa.

Tips for Perfect Results

 Oka Ita: a cross between a salad and a seafood dish, with a Pacific twist.
Oka Ita: a cross between a salad and a seafood dish, with a Pacific twist.

Now that you have all the ingredients and the know-how to put together an excellent Oka Ita recipe, let me give you some tips to guarantee a perfect result each time.

First, make sure to use only fresh fish. The quality of the fish is essential to the success of this dish, so pay attention to the smell, texture, and color when buying it. If possible, opt for sushi-grade tuna filets, as they are of supreme quality and will make your Oka Ita even more delicious.

Secondly, do not rush to cut the vegetables in small pieces. They should be proportionate and harmoniously combined with the raw fish cubes. Take your time to wash them carefully and avoid over-cutting them.

Thirdly, use high-quality lime juice and coconut milk if you want to achieve a creamy and tangy flavor. These two ingredients provide a balance between acidity and sweetness that will enhance the overall taste of the dish.

Fourthly, if you prefer a spicier Oka Ita, do not hesitate to add more hot red chili pepper or green pepper until you reach your desired level of spiciness.

Lastly, mix everything just before serving. Do not let the Oka Ita sit for too long after combining all the ingredients as it will cause a change in texture.

With these tips in mind, I guarantee that your Oka Ita will turn out like a masterpiece every time!


Now that you’ve learned how to make oka ita, let’s take a look at some common questions people have about this dish. In this section, I’ll provide answers to the most frequently asked questions to ensure you get the most out of your oka ita tongan experience. So read on and learn more about this delicious national dish of Tonga!

What is the national dish of Tonga?

This dish is commonly known by different names such as Coconut fish, Ika mata, Iʻa ota, Kokoda, Oka iʻa, Oraora, Ota or Poisson cru depending on the region it is being prepared in. Its origin can be traced back to Oceania.

What is the Tongan word for raw fish?

The signature dish of Tonga is called Ota Ika, which consists of uncooked fish.

What fish is used in OTA?

In Tongan and Australian cultures, ‘ota ika is a popular addition to celebratory dinners and Sunday lunches. This traditional dish consists of small pieces of white fish fillet that are quickly marinated in lemon juice after being cleaned and cut.

What is ceviche usually made of?

When it comes to making a delightful ceviche, there are three key components that are fundamentally imperative. These comprise of raw fish, citrus juices, and aromatic seasonings. The primary ingredient to focus on is the raw fish, as it is the foundation of the entire dish. Therefore, it is crucial to purchase fresh fish from a reliable fishmonger or fish counter to ensure the best possible taste and quality.

Bottom Line

So there you have it, folks! My delicious recipe for Oka Ita, the beloved Tongan dish that is sure to impress your guests and satisfy your taste buds. With its fresh flavors, abundant textures, and rich cultural heritage, this is a dish that truly delivers on every level.

Whether you’re a seasoned chef or just getting started in the kitchen, this recipe is guaranteed to be a hit. So why not give it a try? Gather up your ingredients, roll up your sleeves, and get ready to experience the taste of Tonga like never before.

And if you’re looking to add a little extra flair to your meal, consider pairing your Oka Ita with a crisp white wine or refreshing beer. The possibilities are endless when it comes to this versatile and delicious dish!

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to bring a little piece of Tonga into your home and discover the joys of Oka Ita for yourself. Trust me – you won’t be disappointed!

Oka Ita (Tongan Ceviche)

Oka Ita (Tongan Ceviche) Recipe

Ceviche and other raw fish preparations are very popular in the South Pacific. This version hails from Tonga. Posted for ZWT 7.
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Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 0 mins
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Tongan
Calories 689.4 kcal


  • 3/4 lb tuna, filets (sushi grade)
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 -3 hot red chili pepper, diced (Serrano or Thai)
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup lime juice, fresh
  • 2 cups coconut milk, lite is preferred
  • salt & pepper, to taste


  • Chill all ingredients until cold, prior to making. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
  • Season and serve immediately.The ota ika will separate if not eaten on the same day.
  • Serve with additional chillies on the side.

Add Your Own Notes


Serving: 374gCalories: 689.4kcalCarbohydrates: 89.1gProtein: 22.9gFat: 28.6gSaturated Fat: 24gCholesterol: 32.3mgSodium: 92.9mgFiber: 2gSugar: 80.4g
Keyword < 15 Mins, Easy, No-Cook
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Dora is a chef well-versed in Brazilian and American cuisine. After a hard day's work in the kitchen of her restaurant, she finds the time to jot down recipes for her food blog. Her recipes are sure to delight foodies everywhere, as she strives to make each one unique and enjoyable to read.