A Culinary Exploration of The Islands of Tahiti
PHOTO: Tahiti is as much about the incredible food as it is its incredible shores. (Courtesy Tahiti Tourisme)
Among the most exciting aspects of visiting a new place—particularly an exotic tropical locale—is the chance to savor some of the local cuisine.
Indeed, for many people, this is one of the highlights of a trip to an exotic place. Especially for “foodies” who relish (no pun intended) the chance to learn about other cultures through their dietary tastes and cooking traditions, this is a memorable experience.
The Islands of Tahiti certainly have a lot to offer in this regard, and visitors arriving in anticipation of culinary delights won’t be disappointed. Not surprisingly, fish and seafood play a central role in the typical Tahitian menu. Many of these dishes are prepared and served with a French Polynesian flair. You can find a wide range of exotic and elusive seafood varieties being served here. Popular options include delicious Tahitian tuna, perch and mahi-mahi. If you get the chance, don’t pass up the opportunity to try Poisson cru (ia ota), a popular traditional dish that involves marinating raw tuna in lime juice and coconut milk—with a result that is both fresh and so tender it melts in your mouth. Freshwater shrimp known as Chevrettes are also a very tasty treat enjoyed frequently by the locals.
Regional cuisine also takes full advantage of the wide spectrum of tropical fruits and vegetables that are plentiful in the area. This would include the obvious fruits like coconuts and pineapples, as well as breadfruit, papaya, grapefruit, mangos, and more.
For dessert, it is common to serve a favorite treat, Poe. This is a type of pudding made with a taro root base and then flavored with an assortment of ingredients, such as papaya or vanilla, and topped with syrup made from coconut milk. For the pastry lovers, try Firi firi, Tahitian donuts made with coconut milk and available at local markets and bakeries. Try with local jams or honey!
SEE MORE: Reconnect in The Islands of Tahiti
One of the best ways to enjoy both the local cuisine and the local hospitality—while getting to meet Tahitians and watch their cooking traditions up close—is to attend one of the frequent Tahitian feasts called a tamara’a. A staple of Tahitian life, these feasts are held at least once a week at major resorts in the area. Filled with ceremony and celebrations, these feasts are a big production. Most of the cooking is done in an ahima'a, which is an oven dug into the ground and covered with banana leaves. Although the cooking process is much slower than that in a modern oven, the food is so tender and tasty that it is truly a unique and unforgettable dining experience.
While in Papeete on the main island of Tahiti, be on the lookout for an opportunity to try out the colorful food trucks known as Les Roulottes. Like a mini restaurant on wheels, these trucks give you a convenient way to try local dishes without spending a ton of money.
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