My first move when I plan to visit a new country? Find out about the food. Even before Eat the World, both Mike and I have been major international foodies. Visiting a new country and learning all about their unique cuisines is like unwrapping a present for us. Unfortunately, there isn’t much out there on the internet about food in Fiji. I’m not sure why because there are some really interesting and unique dishes from Fiji. So what is Fijian food?
What do they eat in Fiji? Here’s a sample:
Obviously living on a bunch of tiny islands out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean has influenced Fijian food greatly. Fish is a major part of Fijians lives: mahi-mahi, snapper, mackerel, unicorn fish, octopus etc. etc. etc. One unique dish that encompasses the fishy part of Fijian cuisine is kokoda. It’s similar to ceviche: raw pieces of white fish marinated in coconut cream, lime, onions and tomatoes. The acid in the limes or lemons cooks the fish but the coconut gives it a creamy flavor. Be careful though, Fijians like their Kokoda spicy! I am not a big fish fan. But I did like kokoda!
Lovo essentially means “feast cooked in the earth.” A shallow pit is dug and heated rocks are placed at the bottom. Meat wrapped in taro leaves is placed on top and covered with a variety of root veggies like cassava and taro. Then the entire thing is covered with dirt and left alone for a couple of hours, at which point the food is cooked. Ingenious really. Generally, a lovo feast includes steamed fish, pork and chicken as well as veggies. The food takes on a smokey flavor due to the leaves and the method of cooking.
A unique Fijian food, duruka is a vegetable sometimes called “Fijian Asparagus.” It’s actually the unopened flower of a cane shoot. It’s fleshy and kind of stringy but tasty. Duruka is often cooked in coconut milk or put in a curry.
Also known as sea grapes, nama is the coolest looking seaweed I’ve 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 chili, lime juice, shredded coconut and salt.
Taro is a heavy, potato-like tuber with a kind of purple hue. They eat so much taro here they even have a holiday dedicated to it: the first full moon in the month of May is Taro Day. Taro can be boiled like a potato, mashed, used in a curry or even cut into fries or chips. Steamed taro is very popular. Fijians also use the taro leaves in cooking, such as in the lovo mentioned above. The leaves can be boiled in coconut milk to create a spinach-like dish or fried into fritters. There are limitless possibilities.
As I mentioned before, 45% of the population is Indo-Fijian, meaning Indian food is also Fijian food and is plentiful and popular. Curries, dal, samosas and chutneys are all popular and easy to find. Amazing fresh roti is often seen at breakfast buffets. The road to Nadi is dotted with Indian restaurants. The Indian food in Fiji uses ingredients unique to the South Pacific such as black eyed peas, cassava, fish and goat. Likewise the spices popular in Indian cuisine such as turmeric, cumin and spicy chilies have also crept into traditional Fijian cooking.
Like any good tropical paradise, fruit is a big deal here. Mangos, papayas, pineapples and bananas are all present as well as some more exotic fruits like jackfruit, vudi (a relative of the banana), jamun (rose fruits) and breadfruit. There’s more of course, like fresh cassava chips and spinach boiled in coconut milk and of course the (not-so-tasty) national drink. What I find the most interesting about Fijian food is how they’ve so seamlessly merged their traditional island foods with the Indian and English influences of the past few hundred years. It makes every meal an adventure.
Curious about Travel to Fiji? Read on to discover more about this beautiful country:
Thank you to Tourism Fiji for hosting us. All opinions are my own.