Tahitian Cuisine and Recipes
Tahitian Recipes, Food and Cooking
by Country - May 2003
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Tahiti Speciality Dish
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in the Pacific Ocean, Tahiti is possibly the most well known of the
Society islands, just a few of the 100+ islands collectively known as
French Polynesia, which are scattered over nearly 2,000,000 square miles
of sea. Whilst modern day
Tahitian cooking is a blend of European (mainly French), Asian and traditional
Tahiti (Traditional Tahitian food) remains very popular.
Times, History and Influences on Tahitian Cooking
first settlers are believed to have come from Southeast Asia by about 800 AD.
Having discovered the island, these expert navigators returned to their
homelands not only for their families but also for plants and animals, which is
just as well as, like so many isolated oceanic islands , it is out of physical
reach of many mainland plants and animals. There were no native animals on
Tahiti apart from a few reptile species and some birds. The earliest Tahitian
diet consisted of fish and seafood, pork and chicken, tropical fruit and
vegetables such as taro, breadfruit and yams.
first Europeans to visit the area were the English in 1767 and it was Captain
Cook who is believed to have introduced cattle to the island. Oh, and remember
Captain Bligh of Mutiny on the Bounty fame? He first arrived there in 1788 to
collect the Breadfruit saplings for onward transport to the West Indies.
missionaries arrived in the islands in 1797. They did their best to control and
"civilise" the natives and by 1815 had secured a strong influence over
the whole of Tahitian culture.
1880 the French declared Tahiti a French Colony. In 1957, the whole of
French Polynesia became a French Overseas Territory and has been internally self-governing
since 1984. Obviously, throughout this long period French influences took hold,
not only in the cuisine but also in the language, government and culture.
Chinese influence started as a direct result of the American Civil War. In 1884
in an attempt to ease the worldwide cotton shortage caused by the War, British
born William Stewart obtained a permit to import Chinese workers as labourers on
his huge cotton plantations in
the south of Tahiti. By 1866 there were more than
1000 Chinese in Tahiti.
Day Tahitian Cuisine
the French and Asian techniques and influences are strong, it is good to see
that traditional meals are still cooked in an earth oven. Known an Ahima'a,
this is where meats and vegetables are wrapped in leaves, placed on a
bed of hot stones. The parcels are covered with more leaves and earth, and left to
in the very beginning, fish, shellfish, chicken, pork, tropical fruit,
cassava, yams, and rice are staples and frequently used ingredients include lime
juice, coconut milk and vanilla which is used with a passion in
both savoury and sweet dishes.