Polynesian Food, encompassing the Central and Southern Pacific Island cuisines, is marked for its interesting variety of seafood and associated dishes. Vegetables and fruits also form an integral part of Polynesian food. The French Polynesian cuisine, in particular, is one of the most acclaimed culinary traditions of the region. Popular Polynesian recipes include Poisson Cru (Tahitian salad made from raw fish), Pipi Soup (surf clam soup), Crab and Kumara Bisque (a thick soup of crab and sweet potato), Maori Boiled Soup (made with vegetables), and Soup of Watercress.
Classification of Polynesian Cuisine
Polynesian Food comprises preparations from three major cuisines, namely, the French, the Fijian and the Hawaiian. All three cuisines are characterized by meals consisting of a starch-based main course served with accompaniments. The specific features of each cuisine are as stated below:
1. French Polynesian Cuisine – Also popular as Tahitian cuisine, comprising of preparations from the French, Vietnamese, Chinese and Italian cuisines, it highlights the usage of a variety of fresh fruits. The Ahima is an oven typically used to prepare food of the region. Poisson cru( Tahitian national dish), Chevrettes( popular shrimp dish), and Poe( a dessert pudding made of taro root and banana) are globally acclaimed French Polynesian dishes
2. Fijian Polynesian Cuisine- It is significantly influenced by the Asian cuisines like Indian, Chinese and Melanesian. The influence of pacific and other western cuisines is also significant. The Polynesian food of this region is an interesting assortment of fruits, vegetables, fish and seafood. Kokoda( dish made by marinating and steaming fish), Kassaua( a tapioca dish), and dishes made with meat and breadfruit are fondly eaten as festive delicacies.
3. Hawaiian Cuisine- A conglomeration of American, Asian foods (particularly Japanese, Chinese, Filipino and Korean) and Portuguese foods, it is known for its plate lunch consisting mainly of rice with accompaniments from different cuisines such as American pasta salad, Japanese Tonkatusu (pork cutlet), egg, and hamburger patty. Ingredients for Polynesian Recipes Polynesian food is mostly made from sweet potato, coconut, banana, ulu( breadfruit), Pia( Polynesian arrowroot), kukui(candle nut), 'ohi'a'ai( Moutain Apple). The root of the pepper tree is the prime ingredient for making Kava, a traditional and popular Polynesian drink.
Common Methods of Preparation of Polynesian Dishes
Polynesian food is cooked in cuisine specific ways across the three major cuisines of the region. However, there are some similarities too. For example, cooking over an earthen oven was a common feature of the traditional cooking practices. The French Polynesians used the Ahima whereas the Hawaiians used the imu. The Fijians used their earth ovens called lovo. These earth ovens essentially worked on the common principle of trapping heat in a pit in the earth and using it for cooking which may be baking, steaming or smoking.
Origin of Polynesian Cuisine
Polynesian food was first prepared in the three major factions (the Tahitian, the Hawaiian and Fijian of the Polynesian cuisine at different times. The Tahitian cuisine is an outcome of colonization of the island mainly by the British, French and Chinese. Captain Bligh’s collection of uru from the Islands in the 19th century for transporting to West Indies and the Chinese introduction of rice to the island population, at around the same time, suggests the usage of these ingredients as some of the earliest of the island.
The preparation of Hawaiian food dates back to 300-500 AD, when poi, a meal made with the taro fruit was consumed as one of the prime diets. Breadfruit was introduced by the early Marquesan settlers. The early food of the Hawaiians also included pigs, coconut, seafood and sweet potatoes. Baked banana is a traditional favorite of the region. The colonial immigrants of the 18 th -20 th centuries introduced a variety of fruits (especially pineapple by Spanish botanist Don Francisco de Paula Marín). The Fiji cuisine is an interesting blend of ingredients introduced by various ethnicities. The colonial Dutch introduced sea cucumbers. The Africans Americans and Asians introduced a number of fruits and vegetables, and the British came with cattle to region.
Traditional/ Festive/ Gourmet/ Everyday/ Modern/ Fusion Polynesian Recipes
Polynesian food has acquired global popularity owing to its unique mix of dishes from cuisines from around the world. The Tahitian dishes prepared using Ahima, an earth oven, are some of the tastiest dishes of the cuisine. Sauces, especially those made using vanilla beans are another major attraction. Roast pork is one of the favorites of the region. Hawaiian luau, dishes made with fishes (mahi-mahi, tuna, ahi, Opakapa ) are some of the major attractions of the Hawaiian Polynesian cuisine. Palusami, a Fijian Samoan main course dish made from taro leaves on the umu , mostly eaten as a staple, is an item that should not be missed out upon by any tourist.
Typical dishes of Hawaiian cuisine include Chicken with long rice( a savory dish made with chicken and long rice by cooking with ginger in chicken broth),Loco Moco ( hamburger patties made with egg as a topping and served with a suitable gravy as an accompaniment), Lau Lau( dish made by steaming fish wrapped in taro and ti leaves. Chicken and pork or only pork options are also available for this dish.).
Traditional Fijian food includes fruits and their preparations such as sweet papaya and pineapple, homemade bread, coconut and fish soup, Kokoda Ma'a Tahiti is one of the most popular traditional foods of the Tahitian cuisine. Lovo is a popular festive dish from the Fijian Polynesian cuisine. It is cooked in a Hawaiian earthen oven with meat and vegetables wrapped in banana leaves. A number of delectable Hawaiian pork recipes are prepared for festivals. Amongst the Fusion fare, the Poisson Cru, with vanilla may be considered a fusion of the pure French and its Tahitian variation.
The Polynesian cuisine, in general, may be considered fusion cuisine owing to the influence of a number of eastern and western cuisines. Modern recipes of the Polynesian cuisine include a number of variations resulting from a fusion of other cuisines. Prawn curry made with coconut and almonds or Raita made with eggplant are Indian influenced dishes of Fijian cuisine. Corn Chowder is one of the most favored soups of the modern Hawaiian cuisine. A Complete Polynesian Food Routine The Polynesian food routine varies across the different constituent cuisines. The Tahitian Meal is a three course meal consisting of:
1. Breakfast- bread with a hot drink
2. Lunch – Rice, chicken, pork, seafood, breadfruit, and an assortment of other fruits
3. Dinner- a light meal The traditional Hawaiian meal, also known as the plate lunch, includes the plate lunch which consists of rice as the main course served with American pasta salad made with mayonnaise and macaroni pasta, and a number of accompaniments which may be a fried egg, Loco Moco, tonkatsu, and the kaula pig.
Polynesian Cuisine Trivia
Hawaii Islands is one of the largest producers of Macadamia nuts in the world Till the mid-19th century the Fijians were cannibalistic The Mai Tai cocktail , created by rum King Victor Bergeron aka Trader Vic ,was named so after a couple of his Tahitian guests exclamation “Maitai roa ae” meaning “ out of this world”