Bali Ha'i
September 18, 2009 5:27 PM   Subscribe

Every time I go to a Polynesian restaurant [all too rarely] I love the food. Please help me prepare some of these dishes at home.

Unfortunately where I live now there aren't any Polynesian restaurants. So, if I want to enjoy these fabulous tastes and flavors I will have to do it myself. Please share your favorite Polynesian recipes with me, or recommend good Polynesian cookbooks. Thank you in advance. My palate will love you.
posted by netbros to Food & Drink (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Sam Choy's Polynesian Cookbook is very good, and well-suited to today's cooking schedules and ingredient availability.

The old classic is Trader Vic's Pacific Island Cookbook, but it's very much of its time and you need to tinker with the recipes quite a bit.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:24 PM on September 18, 2009

Herein lies the issue with your ask, and so I await clarification...

What, exactly do you mean by Polynesian cuisine?

Most of the "polynesian" restaurants I've been to (go tiki gods!) are sort of a cross between tropical ingredients (pineapple & coconut) + Chinese food. It should be more Japanese-y, if you think of Hawaii, but as a culinary professional - I call Chinese! Specifically, anything deep fried with a coconut crust.

Hey - if this is what you mean, speak up! Yummy!

But there are other avenues to investigate.

For example, there is Maori cuisine from New Zealand. Their Sweet Potatoes (kumera - Ipomea batatas) are not exactly conventional sweet potatoes, eh. This puts a whole different spin on things.

Additionally, there is Pacific Rim cuisine - which is kinda Polynesian cuisine's fancy modern-day big brother.

Ultimately, here is what I think you may be after: SWEET SWEET PORK.

Specifically, tasty & gratifying pork cooked with an island flair! Are you ready to go deeper? What about wild boar??


Look. Recipes for deep fried coconut shrimp w/ pineapple sauce are everywhere on the on the internetz.

Please give me a more specific jumping off point, and I will be happy to oblige;)
posted by jbenben at 8:07 PM on September 18, 2009

I will start by saying I've never been to a Polynesian restaurant. I googled some and looked at the menus and I'm still scratching my head a bit, per jbenben's comment above.

However, if you'd like to replicate local Hawai'i fare (which is much broader than just touristy "luau" food), I'll recommend two of the cookbooks my kama'aina mother-in-law has given me (and my kama'aina husband has enjoyed) over the years:

By Request: The Search for Hawaii's Greatest Recipes

What Hawaii Likes to Eat
posted by somanyamys at 8:16 PM on September 18, 2009

In an effort to answer jbenjben I will say that my favorite recollections of Polynesian food are the dishes that are very similar to Chinese or other Asian, but with a touch of the island fruit added. Crisp vegetables served with spicy sauces and the tart taste of pineapple or kiwi or other tropical fruits. Hope this helps. Thanks for asking.
posted by netbros at 8:31 PM on September 18, 2009

The Polynesian islands I know about (New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, Tahiti and the Cook Islands) don't eat anything like that: it's starchy vegetables like taro and sweet potatoes, pork, corned or canned beef, fish and shellfish, banana and coconut, and very occasionally, chicken. What you're describing sounds like the cuisine of the Asian archipelagos much further west: say, Indonesia, Singapore or Malaysia.

'Bali Ha'i' was based on Aoba/Ambae Island, which is part of Vanuatu. The people there are Melanesian, not Polynesian, though they subsist on the same kinds of foods.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:36 PM on September 18, 2009

obiwanwasabi polynesian could also mean hawaii.
posted by majortom1981 at 7:23 AM on September 19, 2009

Sounds like you want tiki bar food. Lots of recipes here.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:38 AM on September 19, 2009

This isn't exactly "Polynesian" but my mother always swore by this cookbook for cooking for my Filipino father: Philippine Cooking in America by Marilyn R. Donato.
posted by jamnbread at 8:09 AM on September 19, 2009

obiwanwasabi polynesian could also mean hawaii.

...where the Polynesian cuisine is same as every other Polynesian island: taro, sweet potato, coconut, breadfruit, pork, fish and Spam.

If the OP is talking about the fusion cuisine of modern Hawaii, then we'll need some more detail. Touristy luau stuff like pineapple rice and coconut shrimp? Fusion updates of traditional staples, like spam musubi? Dishes appropriated from foreign cuisines but now pervasive in Hawaii, like chicken katsu or Portuguese sausage? Or French-influenced restaurant cuisine, like a few slices of mahi-mahi on some kind of sauce with a micro salad?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:11 PM on September 19, 2009

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