Polynesian cooking is a blend of exotic Asian and Western flavours. Master chefs subtly combine fish, local produce and other local products with spices and ingredients. Why not try your hand in the kitchen and learn the culinary arts of The Islands of Tahiti?
One of the joys of traveling is trying local foods and French Polynesia serves up a variety of taste treats – some familiar and others exotic.
Whether you plan to visit Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora or the Tuamotu Atolls with your family or on a honeymoon, you’ll find that savouring the flavours of the islands is one of the musttry activities
The legendary breadfruit plant or ‘uru, the coconut, the dozens of varieties of bananas including the incomparable orange plantain banana or fe’i, the various root vegetables such as the taro, the tarua, the ufi or even the ‘umara make up the basis of island cuisine. Papayas, mangos, pineapples, watermelon, grapefruit, limes with a pod of vanilla are used to prepare tasty desserts.
TREASURES FROM THE SEA
Fish from the lagoon or from the ocean, ranging from perch, mahi mahi and parrot fish are also on the menu for typical Polynesian dishes. They are often eaten raw, sometimes marinated in lime juice and coconut milk as in the famous recipe for ‘poisson cru à la Tahitienne’.
There are a number of tropical foods that are found in traditional ahima’a or Polynesian ovens where fruits, vegetables, suckling pigs, Tahitian chicken fafa and other delicacies such as po’e or local fruit pastilles cook through. Everything is sprinkled with fresh coconut oil and turns out deliciously creamy. There are even specialised tours that let you discover the flavours of the islands on picnics organised on beaches. These tours are an opportunity to taste freshly caught fish, such as the tasty ume, the long nose emperor fish of the lagoons and the little jacks.
Tahitian-Style Poisson Cru (for six people)
- 500g of red tuna
- Two tomatoes
- One small cucumber
- Two green limes
- One onion
- Coconut milk
- One green onion
Cut the fish into small pieces and soak it in seawater or salt water for five minutes. In a salad bowl, put diced tomatoes and cucumbers, thinly sliced onion, cut green onion and chopped parsley. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper and let soak for a few minutes. Drain the fish, add to the bowl and mix well with other ingredients. Add the coconut milk at the last minute.
Chicken fafa (for six people)
- Six chicken breasts
- One bunch of fafa (tahitian spinach)
- Two onions
- One piece of ginger
- One lime
- One litre of broth
- Coconut milk
Cook the fafa leaves for one hour in boiling salted water. Drain well. Cut the chicken breasts into small pieces. Peel and thinly slice the onion and ginger. Add the chicken and cook in oil for 10 minutes. Add the fafa and lime juice. Mix well and let simmer for one hour. Add the coconut milk before serving.
Banana Po’e (for six people)
- Six to eight bananas
- 150-200g of manioc
- flour starch
- 50g of sugar
- Milk of a grated coconut
Peel the bananas and cook them in a little water. When they are done, drain and puree them. Mix two bowls of bananas with a bowl of starch and 50g of sugar. Place this mixture in a lightly oiled banana leaf. Cook in a medium hot oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Add the coconut milk just before serving.
- The Chef’s Workshop at Le Meridien Tahiti runs an introduction to techniques for groups of up to five people.
- The GREPFOC training institute offers classes to private individuals to delight the taste buds.
- If you do a traditional tamara’a, you will eat different dishes that make the ma’a Tahiti (typical Polynesian meal).
- The Hotel and Tourism School restaurant: you can book for lunch or try the breads and pastries at their shop.