Food in Tahiti
Food in Tahiti
Written by Pauline Sillinger, January 2022
When thinking about Tahiti, what usually comes to mind are its idyllic landscapes and vibrant Polynesian culture. We bet you didn’t think of French Polynesia as a foodie’s heaven, did you? Yet, Tahitian food culture is good enough a reason to plan a trip to our islands. In this post, we reveal to you seven mouthwatering facts about food in French Polynesia.
#1: Fish, fish, fish
With a marine territory as large as Western Europe and regulations that prohibit foreign fishing vessels to fish within it, French Polynesian are blessed with some our the world’s highest-quality ocean and lagoon products. The local star is the red tuna, usually eaten raw, that you will find everywhere in dishes such as poisson cru (think of it as a coconut milk ceviche), sashimi, carpaccio, tartar and more.
#2: Delicacies from the sea
Fresh fish is part of every Polynesians’ daily diet. Special occasions, however, call for rarer sea delicacies such as lobster and varo (mantis shrimps), vana (sea urchin), kaveu (coconut crab), remu vine (green caviar), pahu’a (maxima clam), etc. If you want the full Polynesian culinary experience, head to the Papeete market before sunrise in order to find these highly prized, seasonal food items.
#3: Mā’a tahiti
Ever thought of what elevated Polynesian cuisine looked like before the Europeans arrived? You’ll get a pretty good grasp of it by tasting the mā’a tahiti, a large meal usually cooked for hours in an underground oven (‘ahi mā’a). It is composed of traditional vegetables (taro, breadfruit, bananas, plantains, etc), raw and cooked fish, suckling pig, poulet fafa (chicken with spinach), pua’a choux (pork with cabbage and other vegetables), po’e (fruit jelly) and loads of coconut milk to top everything off. Mā’a tahiti is a festive meal, best enjoyed during a Sunday tama’ara’a (feast) with families and friends, Hinano beer and bringue music played all day long.
#4: A myriad of tropical fruits
Mangoes, papayas, bananas and pineapples are only some of the delicious fruits you’ll encounter in French Polynesia. Have you ever heard of rambutan, tapotapo (custard apple), ahia (wax apple), starfruit, or even quenette (mamoncillo)? If you love the sweet taste of tropical fruits and enjoy making new discoveries, then French Polynesia is the right fit for you! There isn’t a formal marketplace to buy these rare fruits as they mostly grow in family gardens. Our tips? Don’t hesitate to stop on the side of the road whenever you spot a fruit stall.
#5: Meat that makes your heart melt
Believe it or not, French Polynesia is a paradise for fish and meat lovers alike! Did you know that meat from New Zealand is considered the best in the world, full of flavors and juiciness? In Tahiti, you will find that same top-quality meat in your plate, freshly delivered from New Zealand. No wonder why Tahitians are so fond of barbecues!
#6: The French influence
Tahiti and her islands have been a French territory for more than a hundred years and, keeping in mind the excellent reputation of the French gastronomy, it is no surprise that Tahitians quickly adopted it. Modern-day Polynesians love foie gras, good wine and champagne, fine cheese and pastries, quality baked goods and more. A popular practice consists of blending French cooking techniques and recipes with Polynesian products. Try the mahi-mahi served with a creamy Tahitian vanilla sauce, for example. Do you want to know what else? Most Tahitian chefs get their training in France, which explains why you’ll find loads of top-of-the-line restaurants in Tahiti.
#7: The Chinese influence
In the late 1800s, waves of Chinese migrants arrived in French Polynesia and brought along their extensive culinary culture.
Unlike French gastronomy, Chinese food in Tahiti remains pretty unaltered from its origins and you’ll find some great Chinese options all around French Polynesia, for every occasion.
A typical Tahitian brunch, for instance, generally includes some chinoiseries (a selection of Chinese dumplings, egg rolls and steamed buns). For delicious, fast and inexpensive Chinese food, head to the roulottes, our famous Polynesian food trucks.