Eating Healthy In Tahiti!

Along with the new year comes fresh resolutions and bucket lists. If Tahiti is in your bucket list to visit this year, I can't blame you. "Mana" , the Tahitian life force and spirit connecting all living things, is also the same element that has charmed thousands of visitors (myself included). And while being embraced by Mana, I also got to try a lot of Tahitian food. You need not worry about losing your healthy lifestyle resolutions as I discovered that in Tahiti, there are many many ways to eat healthy. Talk about hitting two resolutions in one trip!

1 Café Maeva


Located on the second floor of Papeete's main market, Cafe Maeva is the perfect coffee, breakfast or lunch stop after a morning of shopping and exploring Papeete. 
Cafe Maeva serves healthy meals made from locally sourced ingredients. One such memorable meal I had was a hearty breakfast of a coconut bowl of Oats, Acai, mango, cranberries and Chia Seeds with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. It was the perfect meal to start a busy day of exploring Papeete. 

When he is not busy training and competing in triathlons, Cedric Wane is busy managing Cafe Maeva, ensuring that they only use fresh produce in their menu. 
Cedric himself is a vegetarian athlete and an ambassador for Air Tahiti Nui. 
He is extremely passionate about proper eating and exercise and tries to incorporate his knowledge not just in Cafe Maeva's management and menu but by helping educate local children through school programmes.

2 Learn to Cook Vegan Food


Evy Hirshon is a local vegan chef and a well-known personality in French Polynesia. She is known for her commitment and passion to living an organic life. She teaches vegan cooking class in her charming home where she also promotes healthy food preparation based on local products.
Evy used to live in Africa many years ago and it was there during a trip to a local market that she decided to become vegan. 
Coming back to Papeete from Moorea, Evy welcomed us into her home where she prepared a three-course vegan lunch for us that was not only filling but very refreshing and nutritious as well.

3 Have as much Poisson Cru as you want


Every country has its staple and signature food. If you're health-conscious, you're in luck in Tahiti. Almost all establishments and restaurants serve Poisson Cru, the signature French Polynesian dish which is like a Ceviche. It is made of raw fish (usually tuna), marinated in lime and coconut milk, with other local spice and vegetables.
In my short visit to Tahiti, we were taught twice how to make Poisson Cru, which looks very simple enough. But I believe the secret to a fabulous Poisson Cru lies in how fresh the ingredients are, all of which can be found easily in Tahiti.
Poisson Cru is incredibly healthy and serves both as a flexible accompaniment to any dish or can also be a meal on its own.

4 Have Guiltless Desserts


Eating healthy doesn't mean foregoing dessert and other sweet treats. Le Coco's, one of Tahiti's best restaurants not only offers dining with an exceptional sea view (and of the island of Moorea), but it also offers amazing and guiltless desserts.
The secret lies in Benedicte, Le Coco's Patisserie Chef, who is obsessed with chocolates. And while she loves chocolates (Chocolates are her specialty), she makes it a point to create them with as little sugar as possible. 
She confesses that when people remark that her desserts taste "bland" or not as sugary as they expected, she considers this a triumph. 
I had the lovely opportunity to have lunch at Le Coco's, have one of Benedicte's desserts (a raspberry - chocolate bomb medley below), and I can attest that while it is as wonderful as it looks, and it's not too sugary. 
It's quite a wonderful feeling to leave a restaurant, enjoying and finishing a dessert, and not feel guilty or too full!

5 Enjoy a glass of Fresh Juice at The Lycee Agricole


Deep in the lush greens of Moorea lies an Agricultural College that also has a massive pineapple and papaya plantation. This is a tourist destination in itself as the planation is very picturesque, set against the mountains of Moorea. 
The walking trail of the tour serves both as a workout and also an educational walk as you learn about Moorea's different tropical plants, flowers and native French Polynesian fruits. 
After the tour, make sure you stop by the College's juice bar where they serve jams made from local fruits, and best of all, the freshest and coolest pineapple juice. 
The juice is made right in front of you with no sugar at all, and it has the bonus addition of its natural fibres as the drink's texture is more like a smoothie.

6 Get Embraced by Mana through Ahima'a


The one thing that sets Tahiti apart from the other Pacific islands is MANA. 
Mana is the collective term for the spirit of French Polynesia and its people. Whenever I get asked why Tahiti is my favourite place in the world, I'm at a loss for words. Because it's not just the stunning islands and waters. It's more than just the aesthetics of Tahiti. The Tahitians have this very giving and genuine aura that you can feel. And the very islands of Tahiti emanate this spirit too. I can't quite explain it. Mana is something that is deeply felt. No wonder I'm not alone in saying that Mana is what makes people return to Tahiti over and over again. 

One such example of Tahitian culture that reflects Mana is the food preparation of Ahima'a. 
Ahima'a is the method of cooking food underground. The preparation can take up to 6 hours or more so this is done when there's a gathering of 10 or more people. From the preparation of the Ahima'a to eating the Ahima'a, the central theme is sharing and collective effort. Everyone prepares the food, and everyone partakes in the food as well. 

One of the best places to witness and try Ahima'a would be the Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora beach Resort. They do this twice weekly, beginning the meal preparations in the morning, leaving the food to cook underground before noon, and unearthing the feast by 6PM.

The food preapared in the Ahima'a varies, but because this type of cooking is normally only done when there's a gathering of more than 10 people, the feast can include a suckling pig, a whole fish, and some vegetables, yam, and sweet potatoes. 
There is a distinct smoked flavour in food cooked in Ahima'a. And while it's packed with flavour, it's also cooked in coal heat (and no oil) so it's healthier than your usual feasts.

The Sofitel also includes a traditional show as guests enjoy their Ahima'a dinner. The show is extremely lively and energetic, lasting almost two hours. 
Prepare yourself for an indulgent and exciting evening!

Tahitian food is not only healthy but also easily reflects the Polynesian spirit of Mana.

Credits: Jeanholysmithereens

FoodRob ThompsonTahiti