If there is one recipes that shouts “French Polynesia!”, it is Poisson Cru. Translated from the French, it means quite simply “raw fish”, but unlike the many “cockteles” and “ceviches” we had in Central American and Mexico, the French Polynesian version is dressed with coconut cream, which makes it very smooth and rich tasting.
While on the hard in Raiatea, we spent quite a bit of time eating out, and very quickly our favorite dishes reduced down to Poisson Cru, which seems the closest thing to a salad you can find, and the ever popular Chao Men, the local variation of the Chinese noodle dish.
Should you find yourself doing boat work in Raiatea, we would recommend highly the affordable poisson cru “petite” available from the sign-less Chinese restaurant at the eastern corner of the new waterfront complex. We were drawn to it because, while tourists filled the Moemoana across the street, this restaurant was filled with prosperous-looking locals. Everything we had in this restaurant was delicious and reasonably priced, and relatively more laden with vegetables than any other. In addition to the traditional poisson cru, they make a Chinese poisson cru without the coconut, but laced with ginger and Chinese pickled veggies. Also very good, plus both are available in small portions perfect for a one-person lunch.
Around the corner in the more upscale Brasserie des Pecheurs, the tourist restaurant that sponsors the Saturday night dance show, you can also get poisson cru, this one elegantly presented in a coconut shell. The one night we splurged on a table there for the show, we stretched the evening dinner budget out by sharing a poission cru appetizer and then splitting an entrée. Their poison cru was also very good, but about twice the price and amount or the Chinese place on the other side. Not to be confused with the Sea Horse Chinese restaurant next door!!)
Around the corner from the boatyard is the neighborhood “Snack” Mimosa. Whenever you see the word “Snack”, you can hope the prices will be reasonable. The Mimosa catered both to neighborhood folk, who frequently came in and walked out with a pot – a sort of family-style take-out! – and to the foreigners who labored in the boatyard. They also offered a nice poisson cru, although only available in a huge serving…almost too much of a good thing. Most everything we had at the Mimosa was like that -- very tasty and in generous portions. Fortunately, everything was in the $8-12 range, very affordable. My only gripe was that the side dish was all too often a huge pile of frites (French Fries). Perhaps it should be no surprise that the Mama who reigned over the cash register was the largest woman either of us had ever seen.
Here is a recipe for Poisson Cru as made by Christine of Wild Spirit. Christine has cruised the Pacific several times, and although we first met her in Mexico, we were tickled to cross paths with her again here in the Societies.
Poisson Cru (from Wild Spirit)
1/2 pound fresh tuna or mahi mahi, cut in small cubes or strips
lime juice, to cover
1 coconut, grated
1 tomato, diced
1/4 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 carrot, shredded
salt and pepper
hot sauce to taste