Pacific Island Recipes - French Polynesian Cerviche and Others

1909 Indigenous dancers.
1909 Indigenous dancers. | Source

Stopover in the Pacific

The Indigenous Peoples of French Polynesia and their Marquesas Islands have been traced only as far as about 150 BC, but perhaps to 2,000 BC from Indonesia, Southeast Asia, and other locales. So far, the migration of the original inhabitants from elsewhere has not been thoroughly explained by the Genographic Project.

The Indigenous Peoples may have travelled to the Marquesas and other nearby islands from several paces, notably from other Polynesian Islands and possibly from the region around Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, other nearby nations and the Pacific islands, known together as Oceana; and from Southeast Asia. We know at least that Southeast Asians came through the Marquesas and left some fruits new to the area and that some South American and Mexican fruits came across to the islands in the other direction. Whatever the exact origins of the Indigenous People of the Marquesas Islands, their food traditions are very interesting and good tasting.

The Marquesas Islands are home to a number of fruits, including native plants and some brought in over the centuries by other nationalities. Among these food plants we find bananas and plantains, avocados, cashews, coconuts, and vanilla. These alone can make up a lot of delicious recipes; however, citrus is abundant in lemons and grapefruit, and the islands also support pineapples, papaya, mangoes, and guava. Breadfruit is often found as well, along with taro (actually a root vegetable), and some others.

A range of fish are found in the islands, particularly mullets, and the coconut crab is a popular food animal in the tropics. This large land dwelling crab is related to the hermit crab and grows to a size sometimes of 40 pounds. TV nature shows tell us that the coconut crabs grow large pinchers and can climb trees. They also eat coconuts as a main food source, making their meat sweet, but eat other plant and animal life as well. Some locales protect it as an endangered species, while others state that there is almost an overabundance of this variety of crab. It is prepared as food in the Marquesas.

Pigs are often roasted for meals and an abundance of wild pigs populate the Marquesas. 

Here's the Crab - Kind of Scary

Marquesa Islands female chief in 1909.
Marquesa Islands female chief in 1909. | Source

Coconut Crab Stew

Serves 4 to 6 people

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pounds of coconut crab meat
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp each of oregano, black pepper, and salt
  • 2 Cups coconut milk
  • 1 Green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 Red onion, chopped
  • 2-3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • Cooked rice

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Mix the raw crab meat in a bowl with all the spices and minced garlic, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a plate and refrigerate the bowl to marinate and for 30 minutes to one hour.
  • Remove the bowl from the refrigerator and add in all the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
  • Pour the crab mixture into a large pot over low heat; cook until the liquid is reduced by half and serve over hot rice.

 

Local Map

Polynesian Cerviche

Serves 4. You can make this with any light fish, like tuna.

Hallibut Poisson Cru

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Pound of halibut, cut into strips
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 oz. Lime juice
  • 2 Cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1/3 Cup onion, chopped fine
  • 1/4 Cup carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 1/4 Cup sweet red pepper chopped fine
  • 1/3 Cup Coconut milk

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Using a ceramic (non-metallic) mixing bowl, put the hallibut and lime juice in with the salt and pepper; mix well.
  • Let the bowl sit 5-10 minutes to marinate.
  • Add all remaining recipe ingredients, mix well, taste, and re-season.
  • Serve immediately and discard any leftovers.


Tiki, creator of mankind in a Marquesas creation myth.
Tiki, creator of mankind in a Marquesas creation myth.

Breadfruit

Breadfruit may have its particular name, because more immature fruits of this large plant have a texture similar to some breads.

Several related recipes are used throughout French Polynesia, but this one is for a pie; it is a vegetable-type pie. Breadfruit can also be used to prepare a poi-like dish as well.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Large breadfruit
  • 1 Medium onion, chopped coarse
  • 1 Large carrot, cooked and chunked into bite-size pieces
  • 1 Large rib of celery, chopped coarse
  • Any type of grated White Cheese - Parmesan, Romano, or any favorite.
  • Whole milk or cream

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Peel the breadfruit , cut if open and remove the core.
  • Cut the flesh up into large chunks for easy handling.
  • Boil the fruit chunks in salted water, until just beginning to soften. Turn off the heat.
  • Take out each piece of fruit, one at a time and mash it in a large mixing bowl. Be careful not to over-mash, or the fruit will become very sticky.
  • Add onion, carrot, celery and add enough milk just to make the mash hold together.
  • Top with grated cheese.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown and serve.

 

Marquesas Island Dance

The Draw of the Marquesas

These islands are isolated and made up of vocanic rock, creating an exotic setting that have drawn many visitors and residents in recent centuries, incuding the French before 1600. Among the renown residents have been writer Robert Louis Stevenson in the northern islands; and poet Jacques Brel, and artist Paul Gaugin in the southern islands. Thor Heyerdahl wrote Kon Tiki while visiting the local island of Fatu Hiva; I remember reading that in middle school and enjoying it. The Marquesas Islands are a good place to get away and back to tropical nature.

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Comments and Additions 10 comments

Hmrjmr1 profile image

Hmrjmr1 7 years ago from Georgia, USA

On my bucket list to visit and eat a breadfruit. Thanks


livingsta profile image

livingsta 7 years ago from United Kingdom

the crab stew must be really yummy, i love crab meat. the other recipes also seem to be ones that will taste great. will try sometime. Thank you for sharing Patty.


Lisa Luv profile image

Lisa Luv 7 years ago from Conneticut, USA

Oh this is wonderful ~

I love the visuals ~

and the video wow!

Thank You --Really cool!


lyricsingray 7 years ago

What I would do to actually try these fruits right on the island. Thank you, very informative, for me anyway.


Creativita 7 years ago

Dear Patty: What a very interesting article about a truly exotic area of the world...and those recipes got my mouth watering, just reading them. Keep up the terrific writing.

-Creativita/Helen


Philipo profile image

Philipo 7 years ago from Nigeria

Very detailed hub. Thanks for sharing.


dusanotes profile image

dusanotes 7 years ago from Windermere, FL

These are fascinating people. Thanks for another excellent Hub. Don White


sukhera143 profile image

sukhera143 7 years ago from Home

Wonderful.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

I love crab soups and stews!


carriethomson profile image

carriethomson 4 years ago from United Kingdom

Great Hub!

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