A Guide to Food in Fiji
Known for its clear waters and pristine white beaches, Fiji is truly one of the most beautiful island paradises on Earth. However, many people don’t pay much attention to the food, and that’s a shame. Fiji happens to have one of the most diverse and fascinating island cuisines in the Pacific.
Want to explore Fijian cuisine but don’t know where to start? Read on as we list some of the best must-try dishes to experience when you visit Fiji.
Why is Food in Fiji Special?
While not as well-known as other island cuisines like Hawaiian or Polynesian, Fijian food nevertheless has a lot to offer. It combines native island ingredients, diverse cultural influences, and traditional cooking methods into a cuisine unlike any other.
Fiji cuisine is considered one of the healthiest in the Pacific. There’s a strong emphasis on starchy vegetables like taro and cassava, which is used in almost every dish. Of course, as an island nation, Fiji is blessed with an abundance of fresh seafood like fish, octopus, and shellfish. Meat is occasionally used in traditional Fiji foods.
The local cuisine also makes extensive use of natural cooking methods like roasting over an open fire and slow cooking in underground pits. Aside from imparting unique flavors to the food, it’s also a healthier way to cook and eat.
But what makes food in Fiji truly special is its rich multicultural heritage. The island has a vibrant Indian community, creating a distinct Fujian-Indo fusion. Chefs make heavy use of curries and spices mixed with island flavors like coconut milk, something that’s unique to Fiji. Chinese influences can also be seen in Fiji food with dishes like sweet dumplings and chop suey.
A sample of some popular Fijian dishes
Whether you’re staying at a resort in Fiji or exploring the many restaurants on the main island, don’t forget to look for any of these must-try traditional Fijian foods.
If there’s one dish that best represents the flavors of the islands, it’s Kokoda. This traditional Fijian food consists of raw fish (often mahi-mahi or Spanish mackerel) mixed in a refreshing marinade of citrus, coconut milk, and spices. It’s often served inside a half-coconut bowl to elevate the flavors and give an authentic island feel to the dish.
Kokoda is similar to the Peruvian ceviche and Hawaiian poke but made richer with the addition of coconut milk. Almost every restaurant and resort serves its version of Kokoda, which is excellent as a starter to a meal.
Fiji is home to a sizable Indian community, who first came as sugarcane workers during the 1870s. That’s why curries are such a prominent part of Fijian cuisine, something that’s distinct from its Pacific island neighbors.
Fish Suruwa is an example of a uniquely Fijian curry. It’s made of fish cooked in coconut milk and Indian spices, such as cumin and garam masala. Like all Fijian curries, it’s served with white rice or the Indian flatbread roti. Duruka, a unique vegetable called “Fijian Asparagus”, is also a popular ingredient in Fijian curries.
Nama in Fiji is also known as “sea grapes”, but it’s far different from its namesake fruit. It’s actually a type of seaweed that’s harvested in the many shallow reefs around the islands, particularly in the Yasawas. .
Another name for nama is “green caviar”, and it’s an accurate description of the seaweed’s briny flavor that tastes like the sea. Unlike other countries who cook nama into their stews, Fijians prefer to eat them raw. It’s often served fresh as a garnish or mixed with fermented coconut paste in a salad.
Palusami is a Fijian dish that’s also common in other Pacific cuisines like Samoa and Tuvalu. It’s made of taro leaves (called rourou) stuffed with a mixture of meat and coconut milk. The palusami is then cooked in a lovo for the most authentic flavor.
Traditionally, corned beef is used in a palusami recipe, since fresh meat was hard to come by on the islands. However, seafood is also a good substitute.
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Last but not least we have Lovo which is the Pacific island’s take on barbecue and is one of the most festive and popular foods in Fiji. You’ll often see this delicacy being served during wedding banquets and community festivals.
The word lovo translates to “feast cooked in the earth,” and is an apt description on how it’s prepared. A variety of meat, seafood, and vegetables wrapped in banana and taro leaves are placed in an underground pit lined with coconut husks and heated stones. The food is then covered in dirt and allowed to slow cook for up to three hours.
The results are nothing short of delicious. Meat becomes amazingly tender and takes on a unique smoky flavor from the leaves. Lovo is a unique culinary experience that shouldn’t be missed while you’re in Fiji!