DRINK RECIPE: Tongan ‘Otai

People & Culture

Watermelon Tongan 'Otai

Originating in Western Polynesia, ‘otai is a tropical fruit drink, with coconut as its base. There are variations to this drink, depending on which island in the South Pacific it’s being served – whether it be Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, or even Hawaii.

Mostly associated with Tongan cuisine, the recipe below is for a Tongan ‘otai, and is perfect for this time of year!

These days it seems there’s a national day for everything. While I don’t pay attention to most, this one is too hard to ignore! It is National Watermelon Day on August 3rd. With North American summers being so short, why not make the best of the available summer fruits on offer. Plus, anything coconut has been drawing loads of attention for its health benefits these last few years.

Move over, Pina Colada! The Tongan ‘Otai is the perfect summer thirst-quencher, to be enjoyed poolside or served at a barbecue.

Aerial View of Tonga
Aerial view of Tonga

Servings: 2 litres or 8-10 servings

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 cups cold, seedless watermelon, cubed
  • 1 can (13.5 oz.) cold, full fat coconut milk
  • 2 whole limes
  • shredded coconut, to taste
  • mint, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Add watermelon cubes to a large bowl. Crush it, using a potato masher or fork till you reach a desired consistency. (It is meant to have some texture and body.)
  2. Add the coconut milk and stir in well.
  3. Cut one of the limes in half width-wise, using one half to yield approx. 2 tablespoons of lime juice. Add to bowl and stir.
  4. Pour mixture into medium serving glasses, over ice.
  5. Sprinkle the sweet shredded coconut to taste.
  6. Cut lime into circle slices, making a slit on one side from edge to centre, and garnish on glass, along with a sprig of mint.
  7. Serve with a large straw

NOTE: If you’re looking to add the mixture to a pitcher, repeat steps 1-3 and then pour into pitcher and chill for 30 minutes. Serve with shredded coconut, lime slices, and mint on the side.

Optional:
This recipe allows for other easily mashed fruits to be added, if desired, such as mangos, pineapple, papaya, or berries. Just be aware of the sweetness level.

If you’d like to add some “punch” to this fruit drink, consider a splash of vodka or white rum.