French Polynesia, and what to eat in paradise

French Polynesia has several languages. From the indigenous ones, like Tahitian and Marquesan, to the imported ones, French and English, and this also applies to the cultures and food. The biggest resources come from the sea, and the main ingredients on the islanders diet is, of course, fish. Coconut is also a common product from here. Green coconut water is very refreshing, coconut’s meat is very filling, healthy and tasty. It’s no surprise that the most characteristic dish from here has both.

Poisson cru, Tahitian raw fish with a French touch

Tuna is the king when it comes to these islands. It’s deep red, firm and flavorful meat makes it a very fine fish, but if it gets overcooked, it turns hard and boring. With the popularization of sushi around the world in the last 25 years, tuna, or ahi tuna starts to be appreciated and more popular as a fresh fish, and not just in cans. Still, I love a salade niçoise with a good hand-packed Sardinian canned tuna, but is a different story…

Poisson cru is by far, the most popular dish in any restaurants menu in any of the islands or atolls. The quest started in Nuku Hiva, in the Marquesas.

Fresh, diced, raw tuna. Marinated in coconut milk, served with cucumber slices, onion, carrot, tomato and lemon juice and served in a coconut, easy and simple as that. And if you are in the Polynesia, the beer of choice is Hinano.

Sometimes I like globalization, specially when it comes to recipes and culinary trends. Being in a place like this, where the quality of the ingredients, like the tuna, makes any preparation fantastic. This is the place where also ceviche, carpaccio and sashimi are found in many restaurants menus. And it worth to taste them all!

That is what I did in the Fakarava atoll (please do not read this out loud!) while watching a dog run after a bunch of reef sharks.

Bora Bora… jumping into the water between courses

Being in paradise just a few weeks before the beginning of the season is a blessing. And that’s how it feels to be in Bora Bora in late January. The place of choice was the Bora Bora Yacht Club. With an impressive deck over the reef, double set of cutlery over the table, a small menu, and a big wine list!

Again, a tasting of raw fish dishes. Mahi-mahi sashimi, red tuna tartare, and seared red tuna with a beautiful layer of black sesame seeds, that gave the tuna, not just nice sesame flavor, also a very interesting texture… is fun to bite the seeds one by one. It’s the edible version of bursting bubble wrap!

The service at the BBYC is attentive, discreet and gracious. And what surprised me, in a very positive way, was that they have absolutely no problem on letting me go into the kitchen to see the preparation and presentation of my dishes.

Papeete… and my endless love to food-trucks

In the capital of the region, I go completely out of my traditional way. Let me explain why…

Papeete has several 5 star hotels, renowned chefs and romantic restaurants. It also has a square, right outside the cruise-ship pier, where every night a bunch of food-trucks park and cook. In my first calls in French Polynesia used to come here because it was easy and cheap.

There are several options from where to chose from: Chinese food, Thai food, crêpes, Tahitian… After a several consecutive lunches having raw or almost raw fish, I wanted to have change before I started to grow a fins and a fishtail myself, so I went to have some Chinese fried rice with shrimp (I had to have some seafood!) and a Nutella crêpe.

The food trucks don’t sell alcohol, so you will not be able to pair the dishes with wine or beer. I figure to keep the environment clean and family friendly. Still, they sell apple cider. I never saw anybody get intoxicated with apple cider.

Take note of a few things about the food-trucks. First of all, they are clean. There is a dishwasher in the square for them to operate. There is no free Wi-Fi. Most of them are cash-only. US dollars and Euro are widely accepted.

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