Sparkling white sand that’s soft to the touch, azure waters that glisten like crystals, friendly faces of the local population… there are countless reasons to visit, relax, and indulge in Fiji, and yet, traditional food rarely gets a mention. Considering the richness of Fijian culture, it’s not surprising that Fijian cuisine is rich in flavour.
Tropical fruits play a starring role in Fijian meals. Visitors may be familiar with Fiji’s abundant mangoes, oranges, pineapples, and even watermelon. But have you heard of these?
Pomelo (moli kana) is a citrus fruit that tastes more like a grapefruit than a lemon or lime - it’s bitter, not sour - and can be eaten rather than juiced.
Rose apple (kavika) sound sweeter than they are. As a rose has its thorns, the sweet appearance of this fruit comes with a tartness. Like many berries, dark rose apples are sweeter.
Soursop (seremaia) smells sweet but tastes tart, a beautiful combination. They’re primarily used in juices, rather than eating plain, in Fiji.
Vegetables make Fiji’s most delicious side dishes. Take the humble root vegetable cassava: this starchy, potato-like vegetable becomes an addictive snack when cut, boiled, and transformed into cassava chips. It takes on an entirely different life when grated, soaked, and baked into sweet treats.
Another root vegetable that visitors will find in every Fijian kitchen is taro. Just like potatoes, taro can be prepared and served boiled, mashed, steamed, or even fried into delicious fritters.
Duruka, fondly known as ‘Fijian asparagus,’ is the the unopened flower of a cane shoot. This sweet shoot comes in red and green varieties - red is crumbly, while green is soft. Both make excellent additions to curries or lolo (coconut cream).
Of course, seafood is a mainstay in the Fijian diet. Fiji’s surrounding waters provide locals and visitors with such delicacies as crab, mahi-mahi, mussels, rock lobsters, sea urchins, and more.
Another gift from the water is nama, or sea grapes. Nama is actually a type of seaweed that makes a delicious addition to salads.
One seafood meal not to miss is kokoda, a refreshing dish that resembles South American ceviche. Raw fish - typically mahi-mahi - is tossed in fresh lime, onions, coconut cream, and even chillies sometimes.
Agriculture makes up a fair bit of Fiji’s economy, and cuisine reaps the benefits. Gorgeous grass-fed beef, pork, goat are hero ingredients for many Fijian dishes. On a whim, these meats can be made into any variation of curry, soup, chowder, and beyond. A few simple spices or a coconut cream base elevate these humble proteins into heart-warming meals.
Meat can be added to traditional Fijian dishes to welcome a different taste profile. For example, beef can lend its flavour to palusami, a Polynesian dish that wraps coconut cream and onion in taro leaves, to make it even heartier.
The ultimate meaty Fijian meal is a lovo, a full-on banquet. An underground oven - dug into the earth and filled with charcoal, works magic as it smokes meat to tasty, tender perfection. Usually, various meats are wrapped in taro leaves. Even vegetables are added to the mix to smoke slowly. Once everything has been placed in the lovo, it’s covered with palm fronds and banana leaves. After hours of tantalising aromas radiating from the ground, a feast is ready!