Food Trucks…. In Tahiti?
There’s more in the land of Gaugin than black pearls!
Food trucks? Uh, really? It's what I was thinking when I began researching things to do and places to eat in Tahiti. We were on a stopover in Papeete, Tahiti, before making our way to New Zealand (see post “Adventure in Queenstown”) and I wanted to find some interesting things to do. Apparently, food trucks have been a thing in Tahiti long before they became one in the U.S. In fact, Tahiti is widely credited with having started the food truck movement (who knew?) A visit to a Tahitian food truck is considered a “must do” in many of the articles I read about visiting Tahiti. Although I was never able to pin down exactly why food trucks are so popular, one reason may be that since Tahiti is an island, and everything tends to be quite expensive, “roulottes” are an inexpensive alternative to restaurants (by Tahiti standards anyway).
Every evening around 6 p.m., food trucks or “roulottes” as they’re known, set up in Papeete’s Place Vai'ete. During the day, Place Vai'ete or Square Vai'ete is a normal park along the waterfront in downtown Papeete. It's also where cruise ships dock. This cool photo on the right of a cruise ship in front of the roulottes is actually from the Tahiti Times. At night, the area completely transforms into a lively environment where the choices of casual cuisine can be overwhelming. Tables are set up in front of the roulottes and you can get everything from crepes to burgers, to the popular “poisson cru” (it reminds me of the Tahitian version of ceviche). Come on, how good could they be? Frankly, it all looked, smelled and tasted delish! But don’t think roulottes are just a tourist trap - oh no! Like the food, the square is also lively mix. Locals and visitors all gather to enjoy everything on offer! And don’t worry, once you’re stuffed you can walk it off along the waterfront in downtown Papeete! Here’s a cool walking tour I found!
As good as the roulottes in Papeete were, I have to admit that my favorite roulotte was not at the Place Vai'ete. It was actually in a town just outside of Papeete called Punaauia (pronounced “POOH – nI”). Le Crepuscule (the French word for dusk) is located at the Marina Taina. It’s just a lone food truck sitting on the grounds of the marina, but it was packed both times we went. Rivaling the food were both the view and the activity at the marina. The first night, we sat and enjoyed our crepes as we watched outrigger canoe clubs practicing as the sun went down, their strokes perfectly in sync. The second night, stand up paddle boarders were in charge, cruising by at a leisurely pace as we took in the sunset with our meals. I have to say, the scenery certainly made me forget that the incredible Nutella banana crepe with whipped cream I was eating was probably the most artery clogging thing I’ve had in a long time. Hey, you only live one, right?
And hey, that “poisson cru” I mentioned earlier? Why not serve it as a starter for a dinner party or a summer get together? Here's the recipe from the Tahiti Times and the link . I hope you'll give it a try and bon appétit!
• 1 ¾ pounds fresh tuna or similar fish (sashimi-grade tuna is best), cut into small cubes or thin strips • 4 fresh limes • ½ cucumber, peeled and cubed • 1 tomato, seeded and diced • 1 carrot, grated • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped • 2 spring onions, finely chopped • salt and pepper • ¼ cup fresh coconut milk
• Dice the fish into ½-inch cubes, rinse with fresh water, drain and place in a large bowl. • Squeeze the limes and pour the juice over the fish, mix well and chill 20 minutes in refrigerator. • Peel and cube cucumber, seed and dice tomato, grate carrot, coarsely chop onion, finely chop spring onions • Drain some of the lime juice, add the vegetables and season with salt and pepper. • Add the coconut milk five minutes before serving. • Serve chilled. Present on a bed of lettuce or in a coconut shell.
P.S. Not to be outdone - we even saw a floating restaurant in Tahiti! A"roulotte flottante" perhaps (a floating food truck)?