Flavors of the South Pacific


Flavors of the South Pacific

September 21, 2020

If you’re looking for a reason to have friends or family over for a light lunch and refreshments, consider showcasing your flair for whipping up exotic food. Who knows, it might inspire a planning session for a group trip to visit Tahiti and her islands!


End of Summer Okra Coconut Pilaf
End of Summer Okra Coconut Pilaf

It’s always recommended to cook with what’s in season, and for late summer, in North America, that includes okra. As perhaps one of the most underappreciated vegetables in our arsenal of greens, okra brings fiber, vitamin C, and an almost-sweet, grassy flavor to any dish it appears in. This versatile vegetable is revered as a staple in Africa, the Middle East, Greece, Turkey, India, the Caribbean, South America, Greece, and parts of Turkey. And of course, in the southern United States, where it shows up in gumbos and stews, or as a fried side dish.

If you’re sensitive to textures, you may know okra for the gooey (some say “slimy”) quality that it can take on when handled in a certain manner. You’ll want to cook it in a very specific way in order to take advantage of its crunchy, fresh goodness, and downplay its more sticky qualities.

Wait to wash it until just before you’re going to cook with it and pat it dry. Don’t slice it into tiny pieces, rather, go for larger bite-size chunks. Lastly, cooking it on high heat, with a splash of acid (lime juice, here) will keep it fresh and crunchy. And if it still feels too risky to you, or fresh okra is out of season… we’ve offered up some substitutions below.

This dish is a vegan one—but if you’re not following a vegan diet, consider using half the amount of okra and replacing with some delicious grilled shrimp.

Coconut bacon

End of Summer Okra Coconut Pilaf

C O C O N U T   “B A C O N”
1 c. unsweetened coconut
1 T. tamari (vegan) or soy sauce
1 ½ tsp. liquid smoke
1 tsp. maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 300°. Place all ingredients in a small bowl and toss until the coconut is well-coated. Spread the mixture evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 7 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Okra pilaf coconut bacon closeup

1 c. basmati rice
1 ½ c. chicken broth (vegan)
½ c. coconut milk
2 T. olive oil
1/3 c. yellow onion (finely diced)
½ c. green bell pepper, diced
2 c. fresh okra, cut into ½ inch pieces
splash of lime juice
1 tsp. sea salt
¼ tsp. ground cayenne pepper

(optional substitutions if okra is out of season) green beans, zucchini or kale make a great substitute for fresh okra.

Pilaf ingredients

Okra saute

1.) Add the basmati rice, chicken broth and coconut milk to a medium-sized pot. Stir, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for about 12 minutes—or until the liquid is absorbed, and the rice cooked. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
2.) Heat olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat and add onion and green pepper. When vegetables are soft and fragrant (about 3 minutes) add the okra, salt and cayenne. Splash with lime juice and until the okra is heated through and browning, but still crisp inside (about 5 minutes).
3.) Top rice with vegetable mixture and top with coconut “bacon.”

• okra is in season late summer/early fall; look for pods that are spot-free and firm, about 4-5 inches long.

Fresh okra

Coconut okra pilaf with shrimp final dish

Take advantage of those last lovely summer days and dine on this delicious, crunchy, fresh dish al fresco, served with a crisp white wine. Or if you still have a penchant for summer’s frozen beverages—try this one:

Tahitian Vanilla Mango Smoothie

Tahitian Vanilla Mango Smoothie
1 c. of frozen mango chunks
1/4 c. plain yogurt (or Greek, or vegan)
1/2 c. almond milk (or coconut, or regular)
¼ tsp. vanilla bean paste

Mix all ingredients in blender for one minute and pour into your favorite glass!

• Vanilla extract can be substituted for vanilla bean paste


Bon Appétit​


August 20, 2020

poisson cru bowl

Poisson cru, or e’ia ota (ee-ah oh-tah) in Tahitian, is Tahiti’s signature dish. At its most traditional, poisson cru (French for “raw fish”) is fish, lime, coconut milk, and vegetables - a delicious, fresh salad that calls to mind blue lagoons and island breezes. It is easily customized by adding the ingredients you favor, and the texture varies depending on how you slice (or chop) your fish and vegetables. The quantities in the recipe below can be adjusted to your taste, but this is a dish that is meant to highlight fresh fish, so keep that in mind when adding or omitting ingredients. This light, refreshing appetizer is as easily put together by your local guide while you sun on a motu (tiny island) in French Polynesia, as it is by you in your own kitchen at home. On the beach, and in the kitchen, it all comes together in minutes. The key is to give the fish some time to marinate in the lime juice. The acid from the citrus cooks the fish, changing the translucent surface to an opaque color. Most chefs suggest marinating the tuna in lime for 5-10 minutes and serving soon after. If you prefer to serve this dish at a cooler temperature, chill the coconut milk ahead of time and marinate the fish in your refrigerator.

Poisson Cru
1lb raw ahi tuna (sashimi-grade), diced into ½ inch cubes
1 tomato, chopped and drained
1 small white onion, sliced thinly
½ c. fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
¾ c. coconut milk, fresh if you have access to it; or canned light coconut milk (shake well)
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and drained
salt & pepper to taste
green onions to garnish

(optional substitutions or add-ons)
carrots, grated or julienned
bell pepper, sliced
4-5 green onions, sliced or minced (in lieu of white onion)
fresh chile, seeded and minced
shredded coconut

Marinate the tuna in lime juice for 5-10 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss well. Garnish and serve immediately, preferably with a Tahitian-inspired cocktail! (see below)

Slice Tuna Poisson Cru

• Sashimi-grade salmon, yellowfin, marlin, or halibut can also be used. Visit the best, local seafood source for the high-quality sushi-grade fish you’d like to use.
• To prepare this dish slightly ahead of time, prepare and mix all ingredients except the lime juice together and chill in the refrigerator. Ten minutes before serving, toss with the lime juice. Tahiti Tourism did a spectacular video showcasing this dish prepared on the beach. Watch now, and like the Vahine says: always listen to your mother!

Poisson Cru Up Close

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere and you may be looking to conjure the intoxicating magic of Polynesian island. In 1944 California bartender Victor J. Bergeron, a.k.a. Trader Vic, created a fruity concoction specifically to showcase an aged Jamaican rum. According to lore, after presenting this cocktail to some of his visiting Tahitian friends, one of them shouted maita’i roa a’e, which translates to "out of this world! The best!" thus earning this luxurious punch its name: Mai Tai. There has been some debate about the origins of the cocktail, and as time has worn on, the original Trader Vic recipe was usurped by a sweeter, more tourist-friendly version. Additionally, the original rum that the recipe was created to highlight is no longer available. But might we suggest you try this almost-original recipe as a lovely, refreshing companion to Tahitian poisson cru?

Original Mai Tai
¾ oz. fresh lime juice
½ oz. orange curacao
¼ oz. orgeat
¼ oz. simple syrup (2:1 ratio of water to sugar)
2 oz. aged pot still or blended rum
garnish with a mint leaf

Combine all ingredients (except the garnish) with 12 ounces of freshly crushed ice and several ice cubes in a shaker. Shake until chilled and pour, ice and all, into a double old fashioned glass. Float a spent lime shell and a mint leaf on top. Take in the aroma of the icy elixir in your hands and drink deeply: maita’I roa o’e

The sprig of mint and spent lime shell garnish is meant to symbolize a palm tree and island. Umbrellas, orange and pineapple juices, and rum floats were never intended for this drink so if you want to emulate the original design of the creator, avoid the temptation to use them. Though the rum that was used in the 1940s-1950s version of this recipe is no longer available, you can stay fairly true to Trader Vic’s vision by seeking out either 100% pot-still or blended pot and column molasses-based rums. (Consider Appleton Estate Reserve Blend or Denizen Merchant’s Reserve). 

Manuia! (that’s Tahitian for “Cheers!”)