The Flavours of the Fijian Food
Fijian food has a wonderful mix of the spicy curries that are influenced by the Indian people and the coconut, fish, sweet potato, cassava and other vegetables that the Fijians bring to the culture. Over time this food has developed and evolved to the current mix of flavours we experience now.
The people are extremely talented and are able to cater for their large families with very basic equipment and supplies. They often just have a gas hob, a large basic pot with no handle, spoon, bowl and a cast-iron Roti pan, something that all households seem to have.
The country is also very traditional in the way they believe it is a women’s role to do the cooking. This often includes wading out into the sea to catch a fresh fish for the meal. These ladies are amazing to watch, making delicious meals without measuring the ingredients, it is all done by taste and years of practice of cooking their Fijian food.
Fresh vegetables and herbs which come straight from the local farmer is a wonderful part of the culture, the food and dishes they prepare. Fiji has low wages meaning that the people generally can’t afford to eat fresh meat regularly therefore taking advantage of the wonderful produce. If you ever have the experience to go to the local market it is an opportunity not to be missed. It is a place mixed full of beautiful colour of the vegetables, smells and uniqueness of being able to buy a neatly stacked pile of tomatoes, eggplant, cucumber or just about anything for $1 or $2.
For special occasions including weddings and funerals the Fijian’s perform a Lovo. It is a feast for the whole family of traditional Fijian food which is cooked in the ground. In ancient cooking they also used handmade clay pots to cook their food in.
Unfortunately some of the Fijian people lack basic education regarding different foods, obesity and heart disease. They love starchy foods, often having rice, roti (you may know this as naan bread, widely enjoyed with Indian cuisine) and root vegetables all in one meal.
Dieticians have been asked to help some local people teaching them how they can lose weight. They give them three things to reduce or cut out of their diet – starch, coconut and sugar (they love sugar often having 4 desert spoons in a cup of tea). The people have been amazed at their results, asking them to go and speak at the villages to help others.
In the villages, especially ones that are very remote, tend to be very self-sufficient. Growing their own fruit – bananas, pawpaw, passionfruit and oranges to name a few. They cook Fijian food using fresh vegetables like eggplant, sweet potato, cassava, bok choy and beans of all varieties and herbs & spices – curry leaves, chillies, basil and coriander which grow extremely well in their climate. These people are living off the land, all helping each other and providing for the whole village and community.
For religious reasons the Indians who follow the Hindu religion don’t eat Beef and the Muslims don’t eat Pork. It is not only absent from their diets but if dining at local restaurants which they own, those foods will generally be omitted from the menu. This also has an influence on the meat imports and the type of food sold in their supermarkets.
One of the country’s cultural differences that I used to find uneasy to deal with was the eating habits of the local people. I have been lucky enough to have been invited into locals homes for a meal. You soon realize that we all do things differently. It is part of the Indian culture, that you eat your meal in your fingers. This was really hard at first but now I am used to their culture it doesn’t bother me, as the saying goes “when in Rome do what the Romans do”.
When travelling to Fiji you will experience the unique flavours of both the Indian and Fijian cultures which the Fijian food has been developed around.