It has been several months since I participated in the Eat the World project, being spearheaded by Evelyne of CulturEatz. Here's her challenge. This month she had us heading, by tabletop, to French Polynesia.
The #EattheWorld Menu
French Polynesia is a collective of over 120 islands dispersed in the South Pacific Ocean. It can be divided into roughly half a dozen island groups, including the Society Islands archipelago; the Tuamotu Archipelago; the Gambier Islands; the Marquesas Islands; and the Austral Islands. The most populated island in French Polynesia is Tahiti which hold nearly three-quarters of the population.
Though I have never been to any part of French Polynesia, upon researching the foods and culture, I decided to rely on my travels to the tropical cultures of Hawaii, the Philippines, and even Costa Rica with a little bit of French thrown in. That's probably wildly inaccurate, but it worked for me.
And I will never pass up an opportunity to imagine myself on an island surrounded by delicious, exotic fruits, fragrant, tropical flowers, and ridiculously fresh seafood. I was definitely missing our tropical travels as I researched for this event. Here's the Mann clan at one of the beaches on Oahu's North Shore after we spent the afternoon snorkeling with sea turtles.
I dreamt of all the exotic, delicious fruits...
...and the flowers!
So, I decided that a dinner with tropical flair would be my #EattheWorld menu. I had some Tahitian vanilla pods and ran to the fish market. I ended up with prawn, tuna, and halibut. Then I picked up some taro chips, a pineapple, and two fresh coconuts.
Chevrettes à la Vanille et Coco
Years ago we tried a Tahitian dish that featured prawns with vanilla. I couldn't find the recipe I liked, so I just decided to wing with some beautiful prawns, butter, garlic, and a whole vanilla pod. This is a simple process, but the flavors are anything but simple. The vanilla adds a creamy floral flavor with earthy undertones; the garlic is pungent and herbaceous; and the butter, well, everyone knows that butter makes everything better, right? Then you drizzle it all with coconut cream and it is over the top amazing.
serves 3 as an appetizer
6 large prawns, cleaned and deveined but shells on
1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons) salted butter
2 to 3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 vanilla pod
3 Tablespoons coconut cream
organic edible flowers (optional) for garnish
Slice the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape out the caviar. Set aside. Melt butter in a large skillet. Stir in the garlic. Heat until aromatic. Add in the vanilla pod and the vanilla caviar.
Place the prawns in the skillet in a single layer and cook for 60 to 90 seconds until they turn opaque. Flip over and cook for an additional 60 to 90 seconds. Remove them from the pan and place them on a platter.
Add the coconut cream to the pan sauce. Whisk to combine, then spoon over the prawns. Serve garnished with the vanilla pod and edible flowers, if desired.
Poisson Crû is French for 'raw fish.' In Tahitian, it is called E’ia Ota and is considered the national dish of both Tahiti and French Polynesia. In Samoan, it's called oka i'a. Similar to Latin ceviche or Hawaiian poke, these are all ways to prepare and serve raw fish. Like ceviche, this is "cooked" in the acid of a citrus fruit
Tahitian recipes varied based on the freshest catch of the day. In addition to the fish version, there it is made with crab, eel, lobster, mussels, octopus, prawns and sea urchin, respectively, in Tahitian, ota pa'a, ota pusi, ota ula, ota pipi, ota fe'e, ota ulavai, and ota vana.
1 pound fresh sushi-grade fish (I used a mixture of halibut and tuna)
1 to 1-1/2 cups freshly squeezed lime juice
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
2 Tablespoons sliced green onions
salt and pepper to taste
organic edible flowers (optional) for garnish
lettuce leaves for serving (optional)
Cut the fish into 1/2-inch cubes. Place them non-reactive bowl (I use glass). Pour in enough lime juice to cover them completely. Refrigerate for three to four hours. If the juice doesn't completely cover the fish, turn them at the halfway point.
Drain off the lime juice, reserving 1 to 2 Tablespoons. Whisk the coconut milk into the reserved lime juice and whisk to combine.
Fold the bell peppers and green onions in to the fish and pour the lime-coconut liquid over the top. Stir to combine and season to taste with salt and pepper.
This can be served over coconut rice as a main dish. I opted for a non-traditional preparation and served these in lettuce cups.
And, in honor of the Pineapple Trail on the island of Moorea, I served coconut rice in pineapple boats.
If you are interested, I did a dive into different kinds of vanilla and shared my Homemade Tahitian Vanilla Cream Soda.
And that's a wrap for my French Polynesian offering for this month's #EattheWorld. I am so glad to be back in the swing of things. Looking forward to our next destination. Stay tuned!