Traditional dishes in French Polynesia

Culinary treasures

If you’re about to arrive in French Polynesia and are looking to discover the culinary treasures that our region has to offer, get ready for an exceptional gustatory experience in this French paradise in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

First and foremost, it’s important to know that Polynesians are big fans of cuisine, as demonstrated by the large banquets known as Tamara’a. You’ll be amazed by the variety of dishes that will be presented to you, especially during traditional Tamara’a, where you can discover the different components of “ma’a Tahiti”.

tamaraa tahiti
Tahitian coconut fish

Poisson cru with coconut milk

During your stay in French Polynesia, you won’t be able to miss the famous dish of poisson cru with coconut milk (Raw fish with coconut milk), an essential specialty of Tahiti. This dish is prepared with diced tuna (red or white) or skipjack marinated in lemon juice, mixed with minced onion, tomato, cucumber, garlic, chopped green onions, and a homemade coconut milk made from freshly picked coconuts from the garden.

The Fafaru, a unique traditional dish to taste

The ‘fafaru’ is a traditional dish in Polynesian cuisine that can be difficult for unaccustomed palates to taste. This dish is prepared by marinating slices of tuna or parrotfish in seawater and crushed shrimp heads, which gives it a strong flavor and a pronounced odor. However, for fans of exotic dishes, the ‘fafaru’ can be an unforgettable culinary experience and a discovery of new flavors. It is often served with taro or cassava bread and green vegetables such as taro leaves or fafa.

The ahima'a, the traditional Polynesian oven

Among the other traditional dishes that make up the ma’a Tahiti, most are prepared in the ahima’a, the traditional Polynesian oven dug into the sand or earth. Hot stones are placed at the bottom of the oven to cook various dishes such as pork, fish (mahi-mahi, tuna, and other lagoon fish), chicken, crab, fei (plantain bananas), chevrettes, taro, umara (sweet potato), uru (breadfruit), ufi (yam), and fafa (Tahitian spinach).

The ingredients are wrapped in banana leaves and placed in the oven. Once the dishes are placed in the ahima’a, they are covered with banana leaves and sand and cooked slowly for about 4 hours until the ma’a Tahiti is finally ready.

ahima'a traditional polynesian oven
exotic fruits

The dessert made with fruits and Poe

As for dessert, you can savor “poe,” a traditional Polynesian dessert made with mashed banana, papaya, or pumpkin and starch. The mixture is wrapped in banana leaves and then baked in the Tahitian oven until it is nicely golden. This dessert is served with coconut milk and sugar to add a touch of sweetness.

In addition to “poe,” you will have the chance to taste a variety of tropical fruits such as grapefruits, papayas, mangoes, bananas, and pineapples, among others, which are commonly grown in French Polynesia. These fresh and juicy fruits are an excellent way to end a hearty meal on a high note.

A wide variety of fish and seafood

French Polynesia is known for its wide variety of fish, offering visitors a unique culinary experience. Lagoon fish, tuna (red/white), mahi-mahi (dolphin fish), swordfish or bonito are among the most popular fish that you can taste.

You can enjoy them grilled, in hot-cold dishes, carpaccio, tartare, sashimi, or even in sushi. A tip to savor your grilled fish even more: try it with a Taha’a vanilla sauce, you won’t be disappointed.

raw fish on market counter

French Polynesia also offers a variety of delicious seafood such as Pahua (giant clam), Vana (sea urchin), Korori, Langouste (lobster), Varo (mantis shrimp), Kaveu (coconut crab), and Maoa, all sourced from local waters.

In addition to that, you can taste French cuisine, which highlights local ingredients, as well as Italian, Japanese, and Chinese restaurants that also offer a unique culinary experience.

High-quality, tender, and flavorful meats

In Tahiti, high-quality beef and lamb from New Zealand are popular. If you are a meat lover, you won’t be disappointed in French Polynesia. Beef heart skewers are a popular local dish, but don’t let the name discourage you. Tahitians enjoy them with mustard or barbecue sauce, and you should try them as they are really delicious.

It is also possible to find dishes based on pork, which is very present in Polynesian cuisine. Pork is used in many dishes, such as fafa (taro leaves with pork casserole), po’e (fruit puree dessert baked in the oven), and coconut bread (coconut bread with pork and vegetables). Pork is also used to make “ma’a tinito,” a traditional dish in Polynesian cuisine that consists of a whole pig cooked on a spit.

Finally, it is important to note that Polynesian cuisine also uses a wide variety of spices and condiments, such as coconut milk, turmeric, ginger, lime, chili, and vanilla. These ingredients add a unique flavor to traditional dishes in French Polynesia.

roast ribs
Chinese raw fish

The Asian influence on Polynesian cuisine

Chinese immigrants have long found their place in Polynesian society. Their cuisine is highly appreciated and considered an integral part of local culinary culture. Chinese cuisine in Tahiti is quite similar to that of Hong Kong, but it is adapted to the tastes of Tahitians.

Among the dishes to try are the Chinese version of Tahitian raw fish (prepared with a sweet and sour base made from vinegar and sugar instead of coconut milk), chao men (stir-fried noodles with vegetables, meat, and shrimp), lemon chicken, chao chap, Peking duck or tamarind duck, mapo tofu, pork with taro, and many more.

"firi firi" are Tahitian donuts

The Uru, the fruit of the breadfruit tree

If you enjoyed the uru you tasted during your ma’a Tahiti, you can also have it accompanied by “pua’atoro” (corned beef) cooked with minced onion. It’s a treat!

uru breadfruit tree

Polynesian-style breakfasts

If you want to have a Polynesian breakfast, here are some dishes you could try: Tahitian or Chinese-style raw fish, firi firi (Tahitian doughnuts), banana pancakes, Pua Roti, coconut bread, and Asian specialties such as chao pao, bouchon, nem, or navet. In French Polynesia, you can find a little bit of everything in the morning, both sweet and savory.

We hope that this introduction has allowed you to become familiar with the culinary diversity of French Polynesia. Of course, once on site, you will be able to discover many other local dishes and products that are not mentioned in this guide. We wish you an excellent trip and don’t forget to say “Tama’a Maita’i” before enjoying your meal!

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Your dishes delivered to the Bounty Lodge

To fully enjoy the flavors offered by Polynesian culinary specialties, you can have your dishes delivered directly to the comfort of your accommodation at the Bounty Lodge.

Learn more about our home delivery services.