Fiji, the archipelago that has remained one of the world’s most loved vacation destinations for years, also features a uniquely exciting cuisine. Whether you already have a vacation to Fiji planned or you’re simply dreaming of visiting the legendary islands , you surely need to know more about the exotic Fiji food available in these islands.
The people of Fiji have long subsisted on a diet centered around such staples as sweet potatoes, rice, coconuts, taro leaves and roots, cassava, breadfruit, and seafood, according to Go-Fiji . While you’re probably familiar with sweet potatoes and rice, foods such as cassava, taro, and breadfruit may be new to you. Let’s explore these Fijian staples and what makes them great.
Breadfruit is a healthy and tasty fruit naturally occurring throughout the Pacific Islands. Its texture has been described as similar to potatoes, and it is used in both sweet and savory dishes because it easily takes on the flavors of foods around it.
A ripe breadfruit ready for the picking.
In addition to being cooked on its own, it can even be ground into flour! Pancakes made with breadfruit flour are popular among tourists and expats in Fiji. Breadfruit pancakes can satisfy your longing for flavors from home, while adding an exotic Fijian twist.
On top of its great taste and versatility, breadfruit is also an extremely nutrient-rich fruit that has been touted as a new wonder food. It contains a great deal of protein, which can help you get or stay in shape even while you’re relaxing on vacation!
In addition, breadfruit is important to Fijian culture. Many Fijian community traditions dictate that a breadfruit should be planted whenever a child is born. This tradition arose because each breadfruit tree produces so much fruit that many believe a tree planted at birth could feed a child for life.
Eating breadfruit in Fijian dishes will be an exciting experience on its own, and will also help you get to know Fiji’s traditional culture.
Cassava is popular not only in the Pacific Islands, but around the world. If you’re a fan of Latin American cuisine, you may have heard of cassava by another name: yucca root.
According to The Spruce , cassava is yet another highly versatile food. This root vegetable is used in a variety of dishes. In Fiji, you may find it as a major ingredient in a stew or soup, or eat it fried or baked as a side dish.
Cassava, fried and served as a snack.
It is also served mashed, like potatoes, and like breadfruit can be made into flour. Because it’s so versatile and can take on the flavor of spices and other foods easily, it is served both as a side dish and a main dish.
If you want to try some very spicy foods while in Fiji, the texture and richness of cassava can cut back on the heat a bit, and if you’re feeling less adventurous, they can remind you of the same potato dishes you’d eat back home.
The taro plant is a truly amazing vegetable. In many Pacific cultures, almost the entire plant is used in various dishes, with special attention paid to the leaves and roots.
Taro root is not dissimilar from cassava or breadfruit, and is used in similar ways in Fiji food. It is a root vegetable fairly similar to the potato, but with higher nutrient density and its own unique flavor. Many Fijian dishes allow this flavor to shine through creative use of spices.
Taro leaves are often used to add a distinct flavor to specialty dishes, and sometimes foods are wrapped in taro leaves before the cooking process. This is especially true with baked meats and vegetables, which are a staple of Fiji food.
When you’re spending time in Fiji, be sure to try both the taro root and foods prepared with the unique flavor of Taro leaves!
Now that you know a bit more about the staple ingredients used in Fijian cuisine, you should learn how those staples are combined to make exotic dishes.
Meats and vegetables are often served with a coconut cream sauce, making them both refreshing and filling. One of the major dishes available in Fiji that utilizes coconut cream is kokodo, which is raw mahi mahi fish flavored with the cream and with various vegetables.
Kokodo and dishes like it display the uniqueness of Fijian cuisine. While you may be used to eating raw fish from Japanese food such as sushi, and coconut cream and milk are used heavily in Thai and Indian food, the combination of raw fish and the coconut marinade is difficult to find anywhere else.
The culture of India has actually heavily influenced Fiji’s cuisine. A leading Fijian resort tells us that travelers to Fiji will also find many Indian-style dishes such as curries and chutneys widely available.
Many travelers to Fiji worry the food will be too spicy, while others crave the adventure of very hot or exotically flavored foods. The great thing about Fiji’s food is that it can cater to either of these tastes, and anything in between.
Spices in a market stall.
Because of Fiji’s long history of trading and exchanging ideas with India, Fiji’s use of spices is just as similar to India’s as it is to the other Pacific Islands’. This means that you’ll find many spices often associated with Indian cooking while visiting Fiji, such as cumin, chili, and turmeric. If you’re familiar with Indian cuisine, you can find many similar flavors in Fiji’s food.
If you’re unsure how spicy a food is going to be or exactly what it will taste like, don’t be afraid to ask! Cooking and eating are big social and cultural events in Fiji, just like in many other cultures. The locals will be happy to teach you all you’d ever want to know about Fijian cuisine.
One of the best things about Fiji’s cuisine is its variety. No matter what sort of food you’re interested in, you should find something suited to your taste in this tropical paradise.
Fried, baked, and steamed foods are all widely available. Most Fijian resorts serve a lovo quite often. A lovo is a type of Fijian cuisine baked in a fire pit made just for the occasion. The pit is dug into the earth and then lined with coconut shells, which are then burned to cook the food.
In a lovo, foods such as meats, veggies, and fish of all types are wrapped in banana leaves and slow-cooked for at least two and a half hours. The lovo is a big social event, and often occurs at weddings and public festivals as well as at resorts. Think of it as the Fijian version of an American family barbecue!
From lovo dishes to kokodo and the simple deliciousness of breadfruit flour pancakes, you’re sure to find something to love in Fijian food!