A combination of French and Pasifika culture, Tahitian cuisine is as inviting as the South Pacific destination itself
When Laurence Anzai first travelled to French Polynesia from her native France, it was for a well-earned, monthlong holiday. When she arrived at her final destination, Mo’orea, an idyllic island just northwest of Tahiti, she quickly decided she never wanted to leave.
So, she didn’t.
Apart from a swift journey home to gather her belongings and tie loose ends, Anzai has lived in Mo’orea with her then-partner, now-husband, Kei, since the pair took that life-changing holiday in 2006. And what appealed to the couple, as well as the spectacular landscapes and beautiful people this region is famous for, was the delectable local cuisine.
Tahitian food is a delicious fusion of French and Pasifika culture; a celebration of fresh local produce and European finesse. Visitors to The Islands of Tahiti discover this quickly. The many five-star resorts dotted across the popular South Pacific archipelago deliver exquisite dining across their numerous restaurants, but the food truck culture is renowned too. And it’s older than most having been established well before the trend reached ubiquity.
In Mo’orea, Anzai has been catering for tourists and locals since 2011 through Lilikoi, a passion project that started as a food truck and has now expanded to a café, a deli and a catering service. And the expansion continues; Anzai launched Lilikoi Mo’orea Food Tours in April.
“I decided to get out of my kitchen once a week and bring people for a visit of the island, its produce and its producers,” Anzai explains. “I love hiking and chatting, picking up fruits and cooking, so the food tour is a mix of what I love to do on the island.
“It is such a nice way to discover Mo’orea and we have lots of fun cooking and eating. People will learn about Mo’orea, about the local products and will enjoy great landscapes and great people that work on the island to feed us.” Home to a vast range of beauty, authenticity, culture, tropical fruits and local delicacies, The Islands of Tahiti are the perfect setting for a relaxed yet educational tour of the local surroundings.
Nestled between the coconut trees on the slopes of Mt Mouputa, Lilikoi is a short walk from the hotels of Mo’orea and certainly more rustic than what you’ll find in-house at many of those luxury resorts. But that’s part of the appeal.
Food tour guests will discover local fish, local honey, a fruit and vegetable plantation, a shrimp farm and pineapple plantation, as well as a rum and juice factory. Then it’s time to put the bounty to good use. With expert instruction from Anzai, guests will cook three dishes in the beachside kitchen: a Tahitian trademark poisson cru in coconut milk; shrimp with a medley of fresh local vegetables; and a sweet pineapple-laden dessert. Vegetarians are also catered for. The fruits of guests’ labour then become lunch, a delicious end to a delightful day.
“I love the fact that cooking here is simple and that products are so fresh and good for your health,” Anzai says of her adopted home. “I play with food a lot and love to arrange new tastes like pineapple and rosemary, plantation banana with grilled yakitori [and] fresh tuna poke bowl with mango and pesto.”
Growing up in the rolling mountains of the French countryside, Anzai was influenced by her grandmother’s cooking. Now, visitors to this beautiful part of the world can be influenced by hers.