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Pacific Island Recipes - French Polynesian Cerviche and Others
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
Coconut Crab Stew
Serves 4 to 6 people
- 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
- 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.
Serves 4. You can make this with any light fish, like tuna.
Hallibut Poisson Cru
- 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
- 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.
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.
- 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
- 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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