Tahitian tuna: French Polynesian poisson cru

After we got married, we had a three-night mini-moon in Dubai on our way back from Australia. A full-blown honeymoon just wasn’t realistic at that point (plus we had just spent three weeks in Australia), so we decided we’d have a few days of post-wedding R&R and delay the ‘real’ honeymoon until next summer. Dubai was everything we hoped for, with temperatures in the low 40s every day, cocktails by the beach, and plenty of all-you-can-eat meals (for that reason, it’s a good thing we were only there for three days).

Canape station at Al Qasr brunch
Just a hint of some of the yummy food we ate during our stay at Madinat Jumeirah.

As for the real honeymoon, we hadn’t completely decided on where we wanted to go, but we’d tossed India around as an idea quite a few times, largely because it’s always been our stereotypical ‘place you should go while you’re still relatively young and responsibility-free’, and that description of us becomes more tenuous with each passing day. However, we found out a couple of weeks ago that summer is monsoon season in India, and given that we live in England and therefore experience the misery of rain on a very regular basis, the idea suddenly became less appealing. So we’re back to square one and trying to brainstorm other destinations.

But how is this all relevant to today’s recipe, which is neither Emirati nor Indian? Well, it’s because of the fact that although Miranda was never one of those little girls who hung a pillowcase off her head and visualised her perfect wedding, she did have a honeymoon location in mind, which to a young girl was the most romantic place imaginable: those little huts built over the ocean in Bora Bora. And Bora Bora is in French Polynesia. And today’s dish, poisson cru, is French Polynesia’s national dish. Technically it has its origins in Tahiti, rather than Bora Bora, but the two islands are in the same archipelago. It also seemed like a good opportunity to ask if anyone has any suggestions of where we should go for our honeymoon: preferably somewhere a bit outside of the box?

Anyway, back to French Polynesia. This French collectivity is composed of 118 separate islands and atolls, stretching over more than 2000km of the Pacific Ocean, and wasn’t designated an ‘overseas country’ until 2004. And its national dish, with its island flavours and very French name, is poisson cru – literally ‘fish raw’. However, the dish uses a ceviche-style method of preparation, meaning that the fish isn’t actually raw, it’s just not ‘cooked’ in the conventional sense. We took our recipe from Tahiti.com.

Poisson cru

1 3/4 pounds fresh, sushi grade tuna
1/2 cucumber
1 tomato
1 green pepper
1 large onion
8 limes, juiced
1 glass coconut milk
Salt and pepper

1. Dice the fish into 1/2-inch cubes, rinse with fresh water, drain and place into a large bowl.
2. Pour the lime juice over the fish, mix well and chill for 20 minutes.
3. Cut the onion and green pepper into thin slices and the tomato into small cubes. Remove the seeds from the cucumber and cut it into thin half-moons.
4. Drain some of the lime juice, add the vegetables and season with salt and pepper.
5. Add the coconut milk five minutes before serving.
Serves 4

Salad ingredients


Tuna in lime juice

'Cooked' tuna
This is after it’s been ‘cooked’ in the lime juice. You can see that it has changed colour.

Poisson cru
Not one of our most neatly presented dishes…

Poisson cru

Unfortunately, we don’t think we gave this dish the chance or respect it deserved. The information we found online described it as a starter, so we thought it would be perfect served at the beginning of the steak dinner we’d planned last Sunday. What we failed to notice was that the amount of tuna (even with the recipe halved to serve 2) was about the right quantity for a main course, so we started to resent how much there was, and therefore how long it took to eat, while our steak was waiting for us in the kitchen. We had the timings completely wrong, and the steak had gone on and off the BBQ before we’d even finished assembling the poisson cru ingredients, meaning that we felt like we had to rush eating it so the steak wouldn’t spoil. This was a real shame considering it’s actually quite a luxury meal, with so much tuna in it, and also because it really was very enjoyable, and deserved to be savoured. The flavours were light and fresh, the tuna was beautifully tender, and even Ash the coconut hater could cope with it because the lime was strong enough to balance the coconut. However, we did both say that we thought we’d prefer it with bigger cubes of tuna.

So all in all, a successful dish, but not a particularly successful consumption of it. We’d recommend it though, and would certainly try it again, just in a slightly more relaxed way.

Or maybe we’ll just have to go to Bora Bora for our honeymoon and eat it there…

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