Fafaru is one of the most popular dishes in The Islands of Tahiti. However, most tourists never try it, because of its incredibly pungent odor. If you can put up with the smell, fafaru is a succulent and delicious fish dish that you should try…once, at least!
Fafaru is one of the most preferred dishes of Tahitians. It consists of slices of raw fish, usually tuna, that have macerated in a preparation of seawater fermented with the heads of local freshwater prawns. It is often spiced with peppers, garlic or ginger and the length of maceration depends on the taste desired. When the tuna is ready, it has an extremely off-putting pungent odor. Yet, like ripe camembert cheese, the taste is nothing like the smell. In fact, fafaru has a delicious succulent and spicy flavor. It is a dish that’s often served for special meals and celebrations, but many families also prepare fafaru for their Sunday lunch. For connaisseurs, fafaru is a true delicacy. It is best eaten served with mitihue (fermented coconut milk sauce), taro and sweet potato.
How to eat fafaru
It’s best to try fafaru for the first time in your hotel restaurant if possible, because they’ll prepare a milder version. You can also ask the hosts of your Tahitian Guesthouse if you can try some – they’ll be amused and delighted to oblige! It’s probably a good idea to order a second dish at the same time as well…just in case!
Ask for a light fermentation the first time you try fafaru. It is usually made with tuna, but many prefer using haura (swordfish), which keeps better. You can also use fish from the lagoon and even freshwater prawns to make fafaru. It is best eaten accompanied by mitihue, (a fermented coconut milk), taro, sweet potatoes and ‘uru (breadfruit). Tama’a maitai!
Fafaru and other Tahitian dishes
Due to its very pungent odor, fafaru can be a bit of a challenge! Fortunately, Tahitian cuisine has many other dishes if the smell of fafaru is too much for you. The most famous Polynesian dish is poisson cru au lait de coco. Delicious at any time of day and it smells good too!
Other popular Polynesian fish dishes are grilled fish in banana leaves, poisson cru in lime and onion sauce, and tuna tartare. Tahitian cuisine is simple and healthy, and based on fresh produce. It is an exotic mix of dishes with the uinmistakable flavor of the South Pacific.