The Islands of Tahiti are a prime destination for excellent cuisine, offering a superb and truly unique range of exotic flavours and dishes to tantalise every palette.
From the Society Islands to the Marquesas Islands, the country’s climatic conditions have created a collection of real-life Garden of Edens, abundant with distinctly Polynesian characteristics, but each infused by their own signature charms.
The cuisine of The Islands of Tahiti is based around fruits, vegetables and meats, with a focus – perhaps unsurprisingly for a group of secluded tropical islands – on an abundant variety of tasty seafood.
Particularly not to be missed is Poisson Cru, the national dish, where raw tuna is marinated with lime and coconut milk, before being mixed with a healthy selection of vegetables. Literally translating as ‘raw fish’, the acid from the lime juice has a moderate cooking effect on the fish, contributing to its distinctive texture and taste.
Other fresh fish, such as Parrotfish, Ahi, and Mahi-Mahi make equally delicious mains, cooked in a creamy light sauce made from vanilla beans and coconut milk.
Vegetables across the Islands tend to be cooked in a Polynesian or French style, often spiced or sweetened with fine sauces, which contain vanilla or coconut milk. Some of the most famous dishes combining these elements are those such as ia ota, a tasty ocean fish dish made using soured vegetables, lemon sauce and coconut milk.
The Islands of Tahiti are also brimming with exotic fruits, and the endless varieties of bananas, papayas, mangos, watermelons, grapefruit, lemons and pineapples, are regularly put together to create delicious fruit salads, often with a hint of vanilla. The most popular of Tahitian fruits and vegetables is arguably breadfruit. Locally known as uru, it is a neutral tasting root plant that can be eaten raw or cooked, and sometimes even preserved as a kind of jam or chutney. Over 70 species of breadfruits provide a wide range of recipes to choose, from simple uru fries to a more refined uru dauphine, each abundant in B and C vitamins. The umara too, the Tahitian word for sweet potato, is a staple of many Tahitian diets.
The Tahitian cooking method maintains the art of slow cooking, meaning most meals can take at least three hours to prepare. Meat is often cooked in an oven using natural wood or over volcanic stones and coals. Sometimes even in a hole made in the ground in the form of an earth oven, where banana leaves are placed on top and underneath the food as it cooks over the heat.
Of course, no amura’a, or Tahitian meal is complete without poe, a deliciously sweet pudding made of taro root flavoured with banana, vanilla, papaya or pumpkin and topped with coconut-milk sauce. Other treats include mouth-watering French croissants, or the tasty biscuit-like treats called kato, made with coconut milk.It is certainly no secret that eating well and enjoying food is as important to Polynesians as music and dance, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the food festival of Tiurai. Taking place for two weeks in July each year, exquisite food and Tahitian culture is promoted through parades, athletic events, dancing and singing. During the eating of tama`ara`a, the family table is decorated with flowers and fruits and is made as colourful as possible. Sometimes banana leaves are used to decorate the floor or the tables where the dishes are served. Guests at these celebrations are always crowned with the tiare flower, the symbol of Tahiti, amidst their sampling of the most delicious Tahitian cuisine.