Posted by on 01 Nov 2019 , in Islands
The Islands of French Polynesia are not just a jaw-dropping tropical paradise but also a mouth-watering gastronomic wonderland. Marked by a distinct culinary Polynesian culture and brimming with fresh seafood, juicy fruits and exotic spices, Tahiti is a place where anyone who loves to eat and not afraid to try new flavours is sure to feel right at home. French classics mix with Polynesian favourites and if you’ve been to Tahiti, you’ll know that such combo is the norm in the island and it just never gets old. Whether you dine in one of Tahiti’s world-class restaurants, take part in a traditional tamara’a (banquet) or grab dinner from the humble roulottes in Place Vaiete, delectable culinary creations and full-bodied local drinks await you.
Let the flavours of French Polynesia tempt you into exploring the Islands’ food scene. Go explore and start checking off these highly-recommended drinks and dishes anyone who take a trip to Tahiti must try at least once!
- Poisson Cru
- Tahiti Drink
- Hinano Lager
Sushi lovers, this raw fish salad should be hot on your radar! Known locally as e’ia ota, poisson cru is the South Pacific’s take on ceviche and is pretty much everywhere in French Polynesia. The dish is raw red tuna mixed in with diced vegetables and soaked in an aromatic blend of coconut milk and citrus juice. Although tuna is the de facto fish used for poisson cru, other sushi-grade or high-quality fish such as snapper, swordfish and halibut are sometimes used instead. Even if you are not a fan of raw fish (or anything raw, for that matter), poisson cru is oh so worth a shot. It’s also a bit difficult to avoid this Tahitian dish since most, if not all, restaurants in the Islands serve it. Besides, you can’t leave Tahiti without trying its national dish!
When in Rome, do what the Romans do but when in Tahiti, you might want to pause and think first when someone says you’ve got to eat fafaru. This popular Polynesian favourite is not for the faint of heart and you’re going to need some guts to take a bite and actually keep it down. Fafaru is shrimp or fish “cooked” by marinating in fermented seawater called mitifafaru, hence the name. How do you ferment seawater, you ask? Well, you soak a piece of really fresh fish in the cleanest seawater you could find and let it sit for three days after which you strain out the decomposing fish. All you need to do now to prepare the dish is to get thin slices of fresh fish marinated in the fermented seawater for maybe 10 minutes then add in plantains, taro and coconut milk. The main challenge to eating it is its powerful smell which admittedly makes lots of stomachs turn at a mere whiff, but muster up some courage, get past the smell, and who knows you might even grow to love fafaru!
Finding fafaru can also be quite challenging. Unsurprisingly, it is not served in restaurants and most tourist areas. You have two choices if you’ve made up your mind to try it. Either you befriend some locals (locals love their fafaru so much it is a staple in everyday meals), or you make it yourself. Mitifafaru is often bottled and sold at local markets and in the refrigerator section of most supermarkets in French Polynesia.
What’s in a name? Well, in the case of breadfruit, it totally explains everything. It is locally referred to as uru and it is a fruit, yes, but it tastes like bread and a top Tahitian treat. Locals like to eat it ripe, cooking it in a himaa (underground over) then dipping it in coconut milk or pounding it to mash which is then wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in open fire. The leaves permeate the breadfruit with a really great banana flavour perfect for a tropical delicacy. It is also common to totally substitute bread with uru so do not be surprised to see lots of Tahitians eating it with hot canned corned beef or put in stews or soups. Breadfruit is also turned to jams, chips or gratins—even chewing gums!
For those who appreciate a story, here’s a good one for you. Legend has it that a terrible famine descended on Raiatea, driving a family of six to live in a cave and resort to eating wild ferns that thrived in the valley. The family was starting to starve though and the father, who was moved with pity, told his wife his plans of burying himself outside the cave and turning into a fruit-bearing tree that would sustain his family. The wife woke up one morning to find her husband missing and a tree crowding the entrance to the cave. The tree is of course what we now know as the breadfruit tree and the valley where the story is believed to have taken place is known to this day as Tua-uru or Tuauru Valley.
This is one dessert you’ll save some room for. Poe is a creamy pudding made from taro, a root vegetable abundant in French Polynesia often mistaken as yam or sweet potato, and served in coconut milk sauce and sweetened with papaya, banana or vanilla. No traditional tamara’a is ever complete without po’e and it is so delicious you’ll be hunting for a second serving before you’re even done with the first one!
You’ve probably heard of this fruit-flavoured rum. Produced by Manutea Tahiti S.A. since 1984, Tahiti Drink is an alcoholic mixed-drink manufactured in Moorea, packaged in distinctively-coloured cartons, and popularly used as both a cocktail and a mixer. The drink is a delightful combination of orange, passion fruit and pineapple juices stirred in with vanilla and cane spirit. Tahiti Drink’s popularity even reached the United States where it is sold under the name Enchanted Isle.
Beers can’t get any more Tahitian than this! Gracing restaurants and bars and a must-have in banquets for nearly 60 years now, the Hinano Lager is a deluxe, bottom-fermented lager with a light, golden colour and distinct bitterness. This local brew is crafted in Tahiti’s Punaruu Valley by Brasserie de Tahiti and is dubbed the number one beer in the islands. There’s only 5.0% alcohol content so you can down maybe five bottles (or more) before it hits you; make that 10 (or 15, your call) if your goal is to get drunk.
Trivia: Hinano is the white tropical flower of the male Pandanus plant common in the South Pacific. The palm-like tree is well-loved for its leaves which are frequently woven into baskets and hats. Remember those overwater bungalows iconic to Tahiti? Yes, the thatched roofs of most overwater bungalows in the region are constructed using the same leaves. Yves Martin, the man responsible for the creation of the Hinano Lager, wanted a Polynesian word that is easy to say in Tahitian, English and French to name his creation and so chose ‘hinano’.
For more information on local dishes and drinks in French Polynesia or expert help in planning your trip to Tahiti, enquire online or call our team of Tahiti travel professionals at 1300 380 992.