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Enjoyed everywhere from the island of Tahiti to the remote Tuamotu atolls, French Polynesia’s version of ceviche (or slant on Hawaiian poke) is the tangy, colorful, and coco-nutty raw fish salad called poisson cru.
- 1 ¾ pounds fresh tuna (or snapper), diced into ½-inch cubes
- Juice from 8 limes
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 1 green pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 tomato, cubed
- ½ cucumber, seeds removed and cut into thin half moons
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 cup coconut milk
Rinse the fish with fresh water, drain, and place in a salad bowl. Squeeze the juice from the limes over the fish, mix well, and allow to chill for 20 minutes in the refrigerator.
Drain some of the lime juice from the fish then add the vegetables and season with salt and pepper. 5 minutes before serving, add the coconut milk.
Serve chilled on a bed of lettuce, on individual plates or, even better, in a coconut shell!
Tahitian Poisson Cru [recipe]
Yup, it’s been 2 months since we came back from our vacation in the islands of Tahiti aka paradise, and I’m still going through poisson cru withdrawal. Poisson cru is Tahiti’s version of ceviche or poke, made with raw fish and crunchy vegetables, marinated in coconut milk and lime juice. We ate possion cru almost everyday while we were in French Polynesia, sometimes every meal. It’s so refreshing, perfect for the hot and humid weather in paradise. I’ve been trying to recreate this delightful dish at home, but it’s been hard to try to find quality canned coconut milk…none can compare to the taste of freshly made coconut milk on the islands.
The post on our trip to Tahiti will be up in a couple of hours!
- 1.5 lb sashimi grade fresh tuna
- 4-5 Tbsp lime juice
- 1/2 English cucumber, seeded and diced into cubes or half moons.
- 1 tomato, seeded and diced
- 1/4 cup grated carrots
- 1 bell pepper, either julienne or diced small
- 4 spring onion or scallion, finely chopped (use both green and white parts)
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- salt and pepper
- optional: 2 Tbsp shredded coconut
- Gently rinse fish and dry. Dice into cubes and place in a large non-reactive bowl.
- Squeeze lime juice over fish, toss to mix well. Let it chill in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.
- If there is a lot of liquid/lime juice with the fish, drain out half of the juice. Add green pepper, scallion, carrots, tomato, cucumber to the bowl, season with salt and pepper, mix well. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Five minutes before serving, add in the coconut milk. Garnish with shredded coconut and serve with hot rice.
be sure to use sashimi grade fish!
I had some heirloom grape tomatoes on hand so I used those instead. Yes I still had to seed those.
The shredded coconut added a nice nutty flavor to the poisson cru. If you are lucky to have some fresh coconut on hand, use a mandolin to shave it really thin, it will add some nice crunch and flavor to the salad as well.
Wanderlust Recipe: Tahitian Poisson Cru
It’s no secret that travel is one of my greatest passions. So after two months of practising social distancing due to COVID-19, I’m starting to get seriously itchy feet.
One of the ways that I’ve been satisfying my craving for exploring foreign lands is by cooking exotic meals. Last week I headed over to the Persian grocery store in my neighbourhood to stock up on dried rose petals, barberries and advieh (spices) to make a Persian feast of roast chicken and saffron rice.
And I’m going to be continuing this culinary exploration by sharing a number of recipes with you in this new series I’m kicking off today called Wanderlust Recipes.
Tahiti has been on my to-visit list since my grandparents first told me about their trip there in the 70s, which included a stay in an over-water hut.
Along with boasting some of the most stunning beaches and oceans on the planet, Tahiti is praised for its seafood. Perch, Mahi Mahi and parrotfish, among other delicacies, are served exquisitely fresh and often eaten raw, sometimes marinated in lime juice and coconut milk.
The ceviche-style dish Poisson Cru is Tahiti’s most famous national dish. It has very few ingredients and is super easy to make. Enjoy it on a hot day with a refreshing cocktail.
1. Cut the fish into small pieces and soak it in salted water for 5 minutes. Place the diced tomatoes and cucumbers, thinly sliced onion, cut green onion and chopped parsley in a salad bowl. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper and let soak for a few minutes. Drain the fish, add to the bowl and mix well with the other ingredients. Add a splash of coconut milk at the last minute.
Your Next Bite
A Recipe for Tahitian Poisson Cru
My trip to Tahiti a few weeks ago, really left a sweet spot in my stomach. Especially when I got to enjoy a fresh spear-caught, home-cooked Poisson Cru meal by a 15th generation Tahiti native. In honor of his dish, and with his permission, I give you Heifara of Moorea Boat Tours official recipe.
- 2 cloves of minced Garlic
- 2 cubed Parrot, White, or Ahi Tuna Fish (ideally that you've spent all day spearfishing in the Polynesian waters)
- 4 Tahitian or Key Limes (mini ones)
I had Poisson Cru in Moorea 2 different ways – with Ahi Tuna and with Parrot (a white) fish. If you wanna try something different than your regular Tuna Tartare, I recommend using White Fish instead (especially if you like Ceviche.)
1.) First, chop the Garlic, Ginger, and Vegetables, then combine in a large bowl to let the flavors marry.
2.) Filet/de-bone the Fish, chop into cubed pieces, season with Salt, and place into a separate medium-sized bowl. (Ideally, you want to chop the Veggies and the Fish the same size.)
3.) Slice the Limes in half, squeeze the Juice over the Fish, and let rest for 1 minute.
4.) Run Water over the Fish to lightly rinse, and drain.
5.) Finally, add Fish to the Vegetable Bowl, pour Coconut Milk all over it, then toss and serve with Chive garnish.
It's like a cool, creamy, sweeter version of Tartare, Ceviche or Poke that'll make you wonder why it has yet to make it to the mainland. For extra flair, serve inside a halved Coconut Shell, or with some buttered Jasmine Rice on the side.
Tags: Ceviche, Coconut Milk, Heifara, Moorea Boat Tour, Parrot Fish, Poisson Cru, Polynesian cuisine, Tahiti, Tuna Tartare
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Tahitian Food Classes in The Islands of Tahiti
Tahitian cooking is a blend of French and Asian flavors combined with fresh island ingredients to create something truly exotic. Serves six.
Master Chefs subtly combine fish, local produce and other local products with spices and ingredients from elsewhere. Why not try your hand in the kitchen and learn the culinary arts of The Islands of Tahiti? In some of the large hotels, the chef even organizes culinary workshops.
- The Chef’s Workshop at Le Meridien Tahiti: An introduction to the techniques used by the chef of Le Méridien Tahiti for groups of up to 5 people. Every Tuesday and Thursday.
GREPFOC: This training institute for adults offers classes to private individuals just to delight the taste buds and to registered students to further their careers. Catering for fun (“traiteur plaisir”) class. For more information, visit www.grepfoc.pf
Indulge in traditional Polynesian cuisine as you explore the islands’ incredible range of exquisite restaurants.
If French Polynesia had a national dish it would surely be poisson cru . While poisson cru literally means "raw fish" in French, it's less daring but tastier than the name suggests. The chunks of fresh fish are first marinated in lemon juice which "cooks" them slightly, are then mixed with fresh salad veggies and lastly doused in coconut milk. I have never met anyone who doesn't like poisson cru , it's on nearly every menu in the country and in a way its flavor defines Polynesia - sweet, refreshing, tender and exotic.
Most of the time poisson cru is made with fresh tuna but it can be made with other fish too. In the Tuamotus it's often made with parrotfish, it can be made with jack fish, halibut or snapper and I have friends in Canada who claim to have made it with fresh salmon with great success. Some people add chopped garlic or ginger but I've found that simpler is better - nothing beats the unadorned mix of lemon and coconut milk.
1/2 kilo (about 1 lbs) fresh yellowfin tuna cut into 1 inch cubes
3/4 cup fresh lime or lemon juice (or a mix of both - the lemons or limes shouldn't be too sour or bitter)
2 chopped tomatoes
½ small onion finely chopped
1 chopped cucumber
1 shredded carrot
1 green bell pepper thinly sliced (optional)
1 cup coconut milk (canned is OK but fresh is best)
spring onion or parsley (optional)
Take the tuna chunks and soak in a bowl of seawater or lightly salted fresh water while you chop the tomatoes, onion, cucumber, carrot and bell pepper - locals swear this makes the fish more tender. Remove the tuna from the salt water and place in a large salad bowl. Add the lemon or lime juice and leave the fish to marinate for about three minutes. Pour off about ½ to 2/3 of the juice (depending on how lemony you like it) then add the vegetables and toss together with the fish. Pour the coconut milk over the salad and add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped spring onion or parsley and serve with white rice.
Tahitian Cuisine: Recipe for Poisson Cru
Have you heard of Poisson Cru? If you’ve traveled through French Polynesia, you are likely quite familiar with it and — like us — quite enamored with it. Poisson Cru is essentially the Tahitian version of ceviche and I’d go out on a limb to say that if Tahiti had a national dish, this would likely be it.
What sets this apart from typical ceviche you find in other parts of the world?
The coconut milk provides such an unexpected layer of flavor and works surprisingly well against the acidity of the lime. We ate Poisson Cru every chance we could during the French Polynesian Paul Gauguin cruise we took last year. Fortunately, during our one day at sea, there was a Poisson Cru culinary demo! Brett captured the demo on video so we would know how to recreate this at home. Thankfully, the Paul Gauguin and Guillermo Muro, Chef de Cuisine, also provided a written copy of the recipe to everyone who attended.
Bowls of Poisson Cru at BBQ on Fakarava Atoll in French Polynesia
Here in Taipei, it can be difficult to get large amounts of sushi grade fish (especially since March with Japan’s natural disaster situation still continuing). City Super, a chain of grocery stores from Hong Kong, will sometimes receive a giant tuna that they carve fresh in the store, which draws in large crowds. Typically, the fish sells out within hours. We had the opportunity to watch them once last year — it was like a feeding frenzy (no pun intended) as people swarmed the counters to get the fish as it was being packaged.
Crowd gathered at Taipei City Super to watch tuna carving Cutting the delicious yellowfin tuna
Last weekend we lucked out and apparently stopped by the store on the right day. Not much tuna was left that didn’t require a cosigner (there was a nice piece of toro (fatty tuna) that was left for about $120 US and a few pieces of yellowtail for around $30 US each). Rather than destroy $200 in fish for something I’ve never made (not to mention toro is just too darn tasty to mix in anything), we went for a combination of ahi tuna and a local Taiwanese white fish — any mild white fish like halibut or hamachi would probably work.
Fresh yellowin tuna being prepared for packaging
Here is the recipe for Poisson Cru (slightly altered from Chef Muro’s).
- 1/2 lb yellow fin tuna (blue fin and other sushi grade white fish work well also)
- Salted Water
- 2 fresh limes
- 2 med Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
- 1 /2 small cucumber, peeled, julienned
- 1 small onion, halved and sliced
- 1 small carrot, julienned
- 1/2 cup coconut milk (unsweetened)
- Green Onion (for garnish)
Cut fish into thick strips and marinated in salted water
- Cut the fish into thick strips.
- Marinate the fish in salted water for about 15-20 minutes.
- While the fish is marinating, squeeze limes (or lemons) into a clean bowl and add sugar — the idea is to achieve a balance between sweet and sour flavors.
- Cut the carrot and cucumber into small strips (julienne) and chop tomatoes into coarse chunks.
- Halve onion and cut into thin slices. Add carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions to lime and sugar mixture.
- Take fish out of salted water and add to mixture.
- Mix in just enough coconut milk to thoroughly coat all ingredients in the bowl.
- Garnish with chopped green onion if you desire.
Serve alone or with white rice.
Have you eaten Poisson Cru? Would love to hear any other variations you’ve tried!
Poisson Cru (Tahitian Ahi Tuna Coconut Ceviche)
A few years ago, we took an 8-year-delayed honeymoon to Tahiti! We had a fantastic time, and had a lot of great food! On our first day in Bora Bora, I splurged on an all-day private island tour. Our guide, a Tahitian man named Ari, took us all around the island of Bora Bora, showing us all the interesting historical sites and interesting locations. After a morning of swimming with black-tipped reef sharks and stingrays, Ari took us to a privately owned motu (islet) – his family owned this property for many generations and leased it to a tourism company for excursions – where he prepared us an amazing Tahitian lunch. We sat on the beach in the shade of some thatched covers (his family also farmed and made the thatch) while we watched him prepare the lunch from scratch. One of the dishes Ari made for us, was a Tahitian ceviche made of fresh raw Ahi tuna, called “Poisson Cru“. Now, up until then… I wasn’t a huge fan of sushi or raw fish. But, Ari worked so hard cooking for us, I felt really bad not eating the raw fish salad that he made… so I ate it… and was really surprised to find out how much I loved it! (So I suppose I can thank Ari for my newfound ability to consume raw seafood.)
Poisson Cru (a.k.a. “E’ia Ota” or “‘Ota ‘Ika”) is the national dish of Tahiti and the islands of French Polynesia, made of raw fish marinated in fresh lime juice and coconut milk. The version that Ari made for us consisted of Ahi, cucumbers, carrots, onions. Other versions we had later during our trip also had tomatoes and/or peppers.
Make sure you use sushi grade fresh or frozen Ahi tuna for this dish. I got a package of frozen sushi grade Ahi, which I defrosted in the refrigerator before using.
Use fresh or frozen sashimi grade raw Ahi tuna
- 1 lb. sushi grade raw ahi tuna
- 1/2 c. fresh squeezed lime juice (about 5-6 limes)
- 1 cucumber
- 2 carrots
- 4 medium tomatoes
- 4-5 stalks green onions
- 5.6 oz. can coconut milk (about 2/3 c.)
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1. Juice the fresh limes for about 1/2 c. lime juice.
2. Cut your raw Ahi into even 1/2 inch cubes. Toss with the lime juice and set aside for 15 minutes.
3. Cut your cucumber in half, then slice very thin diagonally.
4. Peel, then shred 2 carrots.
5. Slice the green onions. (I’m Japanese, so sometimes I’m weird about slicing things at a diagonal angle. You don’t have to do that… but I think it’s prettier.)
6. Cut the tomatoes into thin wedges.
7. Add the cucumber, carrots, tomatoes, and green onions into the lime-marinated Ahi. Pour in the coconut milk.
8. Toss, then season with salt and pepper. Taste, and add more salt and pepper if needed.
Astray Recipes: Poisson cru
* Tomatoes should be medium-sized, firm, ripe, stemmed, peeled and coarsely chopped. Chill the halibut or fresh tuna steaks briefly in the freezer in order to firm the meat and make it easier to cut, but do not let the fish freeze completely. With a cleaver or large, sharp knife, cut the steaks lengthwise into ¼-inch slices, then cut each slice into pieces 1½ inch square.
In a deep bowl, mix the lime juice, onions and salt together.
Drop in the fish and turn it about with a spoon until the strips are evenly coated. Cover and marinate at room temperature for at least 2 hours, or in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 hours, stirring the fish occasionally.
When done, the fish will be opaque and fairly firm, indicating the it is fully "cooked". Taste to make sure if it seems underdone, marinate the fish for an hour or so longer.
To serve, drain the fish and squeeze it slightly to remove all the excess moisture. Place the fish is a serving bowl, add the tomatoes, scallions, green peppers and hard cooked eggs and cocoanut milk and toss them all together gently but thoroughly. Note: The term poisson cru means raw fish. The recipe itself is similar to the civiche popular in many Latin American countries which "cooks" fish in a marinade of lime or lemon juice seasoned with onions, garlic and hot chilies. Source: Time-Life Books Foods of the World, Pacific and Southeast Asian Cooking
Other foods that are popular in Tahiti consist of 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 popular 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 seeing 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, maybe the most supreme 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 request 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 settled in this hole. This formula is very similar to the formula used in Hawaii to roast a pig while luau festivities. The process of cooking using this formula can take some hours, but it has tender and tasty results, often with meat in fact falling off the bone.
In addition to these Primary tastes, Tahiti is also supreme for its gastronome restaurants, especially on Bora Bora and Moorea, two of the most popular traveler destinations within Tahiti. These restaurants, particularly those in luxury hotels, offer diners magical views of the lagoon and tasty gastronome foods, together with Primary 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 gift nearly every world cuisine, from French and Italian restaurants to Chinese and Vietnamese dishes. Often, these recipes feature a Polynesian flair mixed with the Primary tastes of other countries. Many of these restaurants are also evening meal and dance shows.