|Lautoka, Viti Levu, Fiji - Fresh food market|
LOVO - a feast fit for a King or Queen
This is a very traditional and popular method of cooking similar to a Maori Hangi. The basic idea is food being cooked in an earth oven. The first step is to make a pit by digging up the earth and placing a layer of heat-resistant stones. A fire is started in the pit and the objective is to make the stones white hot. This indicates that the pit is ready.
The food is prepared prior to this. Marinated chicken, fish, lamb and pork are tightly wrapped in a weave of palm fronds or banana leaves (aluminium foil is also quite commonly available and used nowadays) before being place in the bottom of the lovo pit. On top usually goes various root crops that take less time to cook which include dalo (the potato like root of the taro plant), cassava (the root of the tapioca plant) and Uvi (wild yam).
The pit is then covered with banana leaves and, if available, sacks or tarpaulin. The freshly dug earth is then used to cover and seal the pit, locking the immense heat and steam inside . Depending on the size of the pit and amount of food, it usually takes between 3 to 4 hours before the meal is ready.
Dishes cooked this way, and also one that is my favourite, is Palusami . It is basically parcels of taro leaves saturated with coconut milk and mixed with onions, tomatoes, chillies, and sometimes corned beef or mutton.
The result is smoked, tender and deliciously juicy meat and well cooked sweet vegetables. It is also a very efficient way to cook a large quantity of food for a lot of guests. For this reason, lovo is now quite popular during family gatherings and public holidays like Christmas.
Another very common and delicious dish is Kokoda pronounced "Core-konda". The main ingredient for this dish is fresh fish (mahi-mahi being one of the popular ones). Added is lime juice, freshly squeezed coconut cream, onions, tomatoes, a little salt and chillies to give a little kick. The fresh fish is filleted, boned and cut into bite size pieces. This is then marinated in freshly squeezed lime juice, diced onions and tomatoes. When the fish has been cooked by the limes acidity, freshly squeezed coconut cream is added just before serving. Kokoda can be served cold or at room temperature.
|Sold at fresh food markets|
Also known as sea grapes, Nama is the coolest looking seaweed you will have ever eaten. They are incredibly green and the tiny little beads kind of pop in your mouth. They are sometimes used as a garnish but can also be served in a salad, in coconut milk (a popular theme in Fiji) or raw with some chillies, lime juice, shredded coconut and salt.
Fiji Indian Curry
|Indigo Indian Restaurant - Port Denarau Marina, Denarau Island, Viti Levu, Fiji|
As I mentioned before, the population is is a mix different backgrounds, meaning Indian food is plentiful and popular. Curries, dhal (lentil soup), samosas (curry puffs) and chutneys are all popular and easy to find. Amazing fresh roti (Indian bread, not to be confused with naan) is often seen at breakfast buffets. The road to Nadi is dotted with Indian restaurants which will usually have the above staples.
The Indian food in Fiji uses fresh ingredients from the South Pacific with a blend of spices popular in Indian cuisine such as turmeric, cumin and spicy chillies have also crept into traditional Fijian cooking. Coconut milk or cream which features heavily in Asian style curries is not often used in Fijian Indian curries, giving it a unique flavour (and eliminating Dehli Belly!)
Be sure to try at least one Fiji Indian curry when you visit next. It certainly has a twist compared to the normal curries around the world. I prefer a good chicken (free range), duck, lamb or goat curry when I am in Fiji.
Vakalolo - Fijian pudding dessert
Desserts are endless in Fiji, you can have several combinations of fruit salads or pick from the many varieties of cooked desserts. Cassava pudding, or Vakalolo as it is locally known, is one of the most popular desserts in Fiji. It is made with freshly peeled and grated cassava, shredded coconut, fresh ginger and cloves.
Cloves are toasted in a dry frying pan until fragrant, then crushed. All the ingredients are then mixed together and divided into equal parts. This is then wrapped in banana leaves or greaseproof paper and steamed for about 40 minutes. Once cooked, unwrap and serve immediately or alternatively with coconut cream and sugar syrup.
Have you tasted any of these dishes before? What’s your favourite Fijian food? Let us know in the comments section below.