Skip to content

Fāfaru, the famous Polynesian dish you either love or hate

Fāfaru, the famous Polynesian dish you either love or hate

Icon label
Icon label
Date de publication : 14/05/2024
Aucune étiquette trouvée.

Editorial team: Mitinui SOMMER / Ruben CHANG

It’s the talk of the town when it comes to “eating local”. For some, it’s a challenge, a well-kept secret, and for others a culinary institution. It both repels and attracts, repelling and tantalizing the taste buds.

What are we talking about? The fāfaru !

If you come to Tahiti, don’t miss this must-try dish. As a precautionary measure, I’d like to warn you that a very special taste and smell experience awaits you.

The fāfaru is a dish based on raw fish fillets and herbs macerated in seawater, and pressed shrimp heads.

Reste-là, ne t’en vas pas encore, je t’explique tout.

Every culture in the world offers a unique palette of flavours. Polynesian cuisine is based on very mild-flavored products. All dishes are generally drizzled with coconut milk.  Whereas elsewhere spices are legion, here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, for a change and to bring a little strength and taste to the traditional meal, we have the fāfaru. Although the smell may frighten you, it remains a renowned dish in the Fenua (terres polynésiennes). 

While the new generation is tending to say goodbye to the latter, the older generation still appreciates it and continues to prepare and sometimes even sell it.

Want to know the secret recipe for fāfaru ? In fact, the basic preparation of brine (miti fāfaru) is quite simple. You pour collected seawater into a container and add local freshwater shrimp. Cover and leave to stand for 2 to 3 days at room temperature, then filter to retain only the juice. All that’s left to do is stir in the garnish a few hours before serving.

The topping

You add the fish of your choice, whether from the sea or the lagoon, finely filleted, and leave to marinate for a few minutes or even hours. Some even use shellfish. Of course, the longer you marinate, the stronger the aroma.

According to Papa ARON (video from Polynésie la 1ère), this brine was born from a few fafa, or taro (yam) leaves, forgotten in a jar filled with seawater. After several days, the famous jar was remembered. Out of curiosity, someone started to taste it, despite the special smell. Le miti fāfaru (saumure servant au fāfaru) est né.

The miti fāfaru can be bought in shops, you’ll be able to find it easily as well as sealed bottles of seawater. For fresh fish, you can get it from the fishermen who sell it on the roadside, or visit the Pape’ete market. 

Topping appearance and texture

L’aspect et la texture de la garniture changent. After a few hours’ maceration in the miti fāfaru, the flesh of fish fillets takes on a slightly white hue. Its texture also evolves, becoming soft and silky.

The tasting

Some consume it directly, while others add miti hue (coconut milk-based condiment) or pure coconut milk. 

On the palate? An explosion of flavours!

Bonne appétit! … or not! 

Site internet associé

Découvrez le site internet Chefs de Tahiti. Il a pour vocation de faire briller la cuisine locale polynésienne dans le monde.
Des portraits de chefs, recettes, savoir-faire et les saveurs culinaires de Polynésie. Des recettes tahitiennes et des produits locaux.