A taste of Tahiti
With its special blend of French and Pasifika culture, Tahitian cuisine tempts you with the best of two culinary worlds. In many local dishes, these two worlds collide in a totally delicious way, so that you enjoy the freshest produce presented with unmistakeable French flair.
Tahitian suckling pig is either rotisserie-roasted over an open fire or slow cooked in an ahi maa, an underground oven that's heated with hot coals. Either way, it's magnificent.
The Islands of Tahiti have had a French connection since 1880. Today the country is an 'overseas collectivity' of France and the official language is French, although the Tahitian language (Reo Mā'ohi) is also widely spoken.
Every morning in Papeete you'll see Tahitians cycling past with baguettes sticking out of their baskets. It's also likely they'll have some buttery croissants, thinly sliced deli meats and a couple of cheeses on board. French-style eating is part of the islands' culture, but it has evolved to include local foods like breadfruit, coconut, bananas, taro, umara (sweet potato), papaya, pineapple, fish and pork.
Many talented chefs move to Tahiti from France, lured by island life and the chance to fuse old-world techniques with ultra-fresh fish and quality local produce. In fact, the team at the Sofitel Moorea's K Restaurant are aiming to achieve Tahiti's first Michelin star. Judging by the innovative dishes coming out of their kitchen, K is certainly one of the best restaurants in Tahiti.
Other places to eat that are known for exceptional French Polynesian food include L'Auberg'in, Le Cocos and L'O a la Bouche. If you're a keen cook and would like a hands-on view of local cuisine, check out the Chef's Workshop at Le Meridien Tahiti.
Traditional Tahitian food
Tahiti's unofficial national dish is poisson cru – raw tuna marinated in lime juice and coconut milk. Another favourite local savoury dish is chicken cooked with local spinach and coconut milk. And if you get the chance to try Tahitian suckling pig, say yes! It's either rotisserie-roasted over an open fire or slow cooked in an ahi maa, an underground oven that's heated with hot coals. Either way, it's magnificent.
Tahitian sweet dishes also deserve special mention: faraoa coco (coconut bread); firifiri (donuts) dipped in coffee; and poe, papaya wrapped in banana leaves and baked. Interestingly, more than 300 varieties of banana are grown in Tahiti.
Villages and resorts often host traditional buffet feasts, where you can try a little bit of everything. Another way to discover the flavours of Tahiti is with a local food tour. These often involve a picnic on a beach or motu (islet) and include an opportunity to taste freshly caught Tahiti fish.
Papeete food trucks and markets
Locals sell fresh fruit, avocado, breadfruit and taro, plus homemade jams and syrups, at roadside stalls. You can also pick up foodie bargains and local crafts at Papeete's bustling local market.
A highlight of urban eating in Tahiti is food truck dining, which is deliciously inexpensive. A fleet of roulottes (that's French for food trucks) parks along the Papeete waterfront at night. They've fed people for close to 30 years, so you can be sure that every recipe has been improved to the point of perfection. Best roulette eats include crepes, galettes, poisson cru, steak frites, sashimi with homemade brown sauce, and much more. A band plays in the nearby rotunda every Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
For a local tipple, try a Ti Punch (rum, Tahitian lime and sugar), Hinano beer or the Vin de Tahiti rose, said to be the only wine produced on a coral atoll. Now that's something you don't get every day.