The history of French Polynesian food-trucks

Les roulottes de Vaiete
Food-trucks are very widespread and appreciated in Tahiti, as in all of French Polynesia. Their origin dates back to the 1930s when they emerged among Chinese immigrant families in need of money, to gradually evolve until now. Emblematic of the Pacific Islands, it is a warm place where we like to meet around local and hearty dishes. With a bit of luck, you might even be able to enjoy the ukulele players who come from time to time to have fun on the Place de Vaiete!

Did you say “roulottes”?

"Roulottes" in Tahiti designate food trucks quite simply, vehicles equipped for the production and sale of food and drinks which are generally snacks. Its name may vary depending on its region, for example in Reunion where they are called “bar truck” or “gourmet truck” in Quebec. And now you understand, for Tahiti it's the Roulottes!

The first roulottes appeared in Papeete in the 1930s. Originally, they were mostly bamboo carts through which the Chinese sold fruits and vegetables. In the 1950s and 1960s, they evolved into mobile mini-markets that moved around neighborhoods to prevent residents from making the trip to shops. Then they gradually came to a standstill on land or squares to sell pancakes, cakes ... even whole meals for people to come and dine there. Today, they are therefore equipped for the preparation of meals and they are real family businesses, spanning several generations! It is said that during the Tiurai and Heiva festivals in June and July, the roulottes came to Vaiete in town during the festivities. Now they are still there but for the whole year and this square has become emblematic. The population likes to frequent this place and the trailers work very well because the food is good and at lower prices than those of the restaurants. It's a great place to meet up with family or friends and have a good time!

A friendly atmosphere with local food

In Tahiti, you can find roulottes all over the island. There are even lots or car parks used especially for their pitches, sometimes grouping together several roulottes side by side, for example in Vaiete on the Papeete seafront or in Taaone near the Pirae hospital. They are present by the sea but also close to colleges, high schools and businesses to make sure to find customers wishing to buy a “ma'a” (“meal” in Tahitian) nearby during their lunch break. . And of course if you travel to the islands of French Polynesia, you can be sure to find roulottes there as well, although there are less of them than in Tahiti, where the economy and population are the highest.

All the roulottes offer mainly the same dishes characteristic of Polynesia, such as different preparations of raw or cooked fish, grilled meats and meats accompanied by fries or even Chinese dishes such as the typical chao men, an assortment of Chinese noodles with vegetables sautéed with meat. But other trailers sell snacks or paninis for nearby schoolchildren, some Breton pancakes or even Thai dishes. There is something for every taste ! We find there the mixture of cultures present in Tahiti, and the food is always served copiously to the great pleasure of the Polynesians! The point is really to have fun and that everyone can have access to it. A balanced diet is not the first priority, which could be seen as a point of improvement in a region where obesity and overweight are a plague. Generally, trailers do not offer alcohol without the appropriate license, which does not prevent the festive atmosphere that can be found there. Indeed in Vaiete, local ukulele players regularly come to liven up the evening to the sounds of Polynesian melodies! What to spend a memorable moment if you come to Polynesia for vacation!