I was first introduced to today’s raw fish dish, poisson cru, or e’ia ota, many years ago, on a trip to Moorea, one of the islands in French Polynesia, more commonly known as Tahiti. Poisson cru, Tahiti’s national dish, literally means “raw fish” in French. It consists of fresh fish, usually tuna or mahi mahi, and vegetables marinated in lime juice and coconut milk. It is found just about anywhere in Tahiti – from roadside stands to fine restaurants.
It is similar to the South American ceviche, since the fish is “cooked” ever so slightly by being marinated briefly in lime juice before coconut milk is added to mellow its acidity. Although poisson cru may be eaten immediately after it is made, it is best after a few hours, when the flavors have had a chance to meld together.
Some recipes call for the chunks of tuna to be soaked for about 15-20 minutes in salted fresh water because Tahitian locals swear that this step makes the fish more tender. I skipped this step, but feel free to do so, if you’re up for a little experimentation. Use full fat canned coconut milk for a richer, tastier poisson cru. However, for a more authentic dish, wrap fresh coconut flesh in cloth and squeeze the milky juice over the fish and vegetables.
Eating poisson cru always transports me back to Tahiti and all of its beauty; it is exotic, fresh, and colorful.
Tahitian Poisson Cru
Yields 4 servings
1 pound fresh, sushi-grade ahi tuna or magi magi, cut into about 1/2-inch cubes (I used ahi tuna.)
3 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or more, to taste
1 cup coconut milk (full fat)
1/4 cup carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/4 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/4 cup bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch cubes (I used yellow peppers)
5-7 cherry tomatoes, cut in half (or 1 medium tomato, seeded and diced)
1 tablespoon green onion, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
zest of 1 lime, for garnish
carrots, grated, for garnish
green onion, for garnish
In a bowl, combine the tuna, lemon juice and salt and marinate for 5 minutes. Drain the lemon juice and add the coconut milk, carrots, cucumbers, bell pepper, tomatoes, and finely chopped green onions to the bowl. With a spoon, gently mix and add more salt, if needed, and black pepper to taste.
Garnish with lime zest and more green onion and serve with rice, fried wontons, or on a bed of greens.
Warning: Consumption of raw or undercooked fish and shellfish may substantially increase the risk of foodborne illness.
Adapted from Giada in Paradise: Bora Bora, Food Network.
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