Top eats in the Pacific

By Leila George

In the past, visitors to the Pacific might have had low expectations for their food. Not any more, writes Leila George.
Hawaii Food & Wine Festival.
Hawaii Food & Wine Festival.

The 'Roulottes' of Tahiti

Head to the waterside in Papeete and you'll find the "Roulottes", a ramshackle gathering of food trucks, ranging from the homely to the downright hipster - and all of its fare delicious. When we visited, there were more 50 trucks doing a roaring trade with locals sitting at picnic tables.

Wander around, take your pick and find a spot alongside the locals.

The French influence is strong, but there are also some great Asian meals to be had.

Raw fish salad

It's the dish that's everywhere across the islands - it's known as kokoda in Fiji, ika mata in Rarotonga, oka I'a in Samoa and poisson cru in Tahiti. The classic raw fish salad features diced firm fish (snapper is good), marinated in citrus juice (lime is best) and mixed with coriander, chillies and a couple of other vegetable bits and bobs. Don't be shy with the salt. It's the coconut milk in these salads that makes them different from the ceviche common in South America.

The Hawaii Food and Wine Festival

Rating itself "the premier epicurean destination event in the Pacific", Honolulu's great food and wine festival showcases the best of the island chain's tucker and capitalises on its strong links with Asian food and mainland America.

Writer Paul Davies visited the festival for Herald Travel and said "Hawaii's unique location and history has developed a diverse cuisine". This year's event (for information on tickets, go to hawaiifoodandwinefestival.com) runs from October 14-30, over three weekends, and spreading across different islands, meaning foodie visitors can see the most of the place.

Back to school

Don't just eat the food, learn how to cook it. At the Flavours of Fiji cooking school, on Denarau Island, visitors are taught about local cuisine, with lessons focused on the different strands of ethnic Fijian and Fijian Indian food.

It's all done in small groups, with a maximum of 12 guests taking part, learning about Fijian home life and culture along the way. And it all finishes with a delicious feed. Check out flavoursoffiji.com for more details.

Apia markets

For an authentic taste of Samoa, head to the produce market in Apia - open every day of the week.

As well as fresh local produce, there are cooked Samoan specialties on offer and the aromas are sure to get your mouth watering.

Wash it all down with a cold nui (drinking coconut) and be sure to check out the fish markets early on Sundays.

Norfolk Island food festival

With a European lineage, a Pacific location and a fiercely independent streak, Norfolk Island has a unique culinary culture, from the free-range cattle that rule the roads to the cherry guava trees dotted all over the island.

The festival (norfolkislandfoodfestival.com) is held every November and offers the chance to eat at some of the island's historic sites, as well as its restaurants. The steaks here are fresh, juicy and tender - you may even have seen your next meal roaming the streets.

New Caledonia

For a Pacific twist on French cuisine, this is the place to be.

The country was colonised by the French in 1853 and the influence remains - a wide variety of French wine can be purchased at reasonable prices. Noumea has around 130 eateries, offering everything from fine dining to the "roulottes" - roadside food caravans like the ones you'll find in Papeete.

High-profile chef Julie Le Clerc has described New Caledonia as the "best place in the Pacific region to indulge in a truly unique gourmet holiday".

Send us your recommendations for Pacific Island eating treats. travel@nzherald.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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