The Food in Tahiti
The Polynesian country of Tahiti is famous for its food. While in Tahiti, the best way to experience its culture is through its food. Because Tahiti was isolated from outside influences until only two to three hundred years ago, its cuisine is some of the most unique in the world, with distinctly Polynesian characteristics, although many of today’s restaurants in Tahiti offer Polynesian food with influences from cultures all over the world.
Fish and other types of seafood can be found at every meal and in every restaurant. Traditional Tahitian fare includes poisson cru, raw fish marinated in coconut milk and lime juice. This is considered the national dish of Tahiti, and there are many versions of it, including a few with French or Chinese influences.
Other foods that are popular in Tahiti include tropical fruits, seafood, and pork. Many dishes in Hawaii use coconut milk, such as ‘papaya chicken,’ which combines coconut milk, papaya, and chicken. The casse-croute is a local sandwich that is a favorite of Tahitians and tourists alike. Most red meat and poultry is imported from New Zealand; as a result, you’ll see less beef and chicken on the menu here than in other areas of the world.
Mangoes, melons, pineapples, grapefruits, and banana can be found at street markets throughout the country. For those looking for more exotic fruits, sample the lynchee, rambutans, or the pamplemousse, a huge grapefruit. Tahiti’s pineapples are known to be the sweetest in the world, and there are also more than 300 varieties of banana grown here.
For dessert, try Faraoa coco, or coconut bread. Firifiri, donuts in a figure-eight shape, are a mouth-watering dessert often dipped in coffee. Finally, perhaps the most famous dessert in Tahiti is Poe, a baked dish made of papaya wrapped in banana leaves. The national drink of Tahiti is Hinano, a type of beer, while tropical cocktails made with local fruits are also quite popular.
Most food in Tahiti is traditionally eaten with the fingers, although food stands are quite accustomed to tourists asking for a fork or spoon, and restaurants are increasingly using western-style table settings. The food is traditionally cooked not in an indoor oven, but in an ahimaa, or hole dug into the ground. The food is wrapped in banana leaves and placed in this hole. This method is very similar to the method used in Hawaii to roast a pig during luau festivities. The process of cooking using this method can take several hours, but it has tender and delicious results, often with meat literally falling off the bone.
In addition to these traditional tastes, Tahiti is also famous for its gourmet restaurants, especially on Bora Bora and Moorea, two of the most popular tourist destinations within Tahiti. These restaurants, particularly those in luxury hotels, offer diners magical views of the lagoon and delicious gourmet foods, including traditional Tahitian fare as well as Americanized dishes. Many feature Polynesian entertainment such as dancers and musicians.
In Papeete, known as Tahiti’s food capital, you can find a wide variety of restaurants offering nearly every world cuisine, from French and Italian restaurants to Chinese and Vietnamese dishes. Often, these recipes feature a Polynesian flair mixed with the traditional tastes of other countries. Many of these restaurants are also dinner and dance shows.
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