Flavors of Fiji: A Unique Culinary Experience (and a Fijian Recipe!)
Fiji is a melting pot of different cultures. With that comes a national cuisine of different flavors and preparations. In Fijian food, you’ll find a blend of flavors from Melanesia, Polynesia, other Pacific islands, India, and China. The result is the diverse, yummy Fijian cuisine!
We recently enjoyed a special and exciting culinary experience at Flavors of Fiji Cooking School in Denarau. The simple act of tasting Fijian foods at restaurants in Fiji is a treat. You can imagine how much more of a treat it was to see how the food was made, to try to make it ourselves, and to ultimately taste the end product!
Home-Style Fijian Cooking
Developed by two Fijian friends who share a love for cooking, the school takes guests on a discovery of home-style Fijian cooking. During the classes, guests participate in food culture lessons and cooking lessons, have lunch and refreshments, and get recipes that they can try at home. It offers classes such as Fijian Feasts, Indian Thali, Tropical Sweets, and even one for the kids called Kids Kitchen. Classes are held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., from Monday through Saturday. Sunday classes are also available for a minimum of eight guests.
Eci and Amelia are Fijian cooks and hosts. Eci developed her love of cooking from the age of eight, when she used to join her mother in the kitchen to make meals for their family of five. Like Eci, Amelia started cooking at a very young age. She would help her family of four to cook and put food on the table. Last but not least, Arti, an Indian cook, started helping her mother in the kitchen at the age of seven. Her family had seven members. By the time Arti was ten, she had completely taken over cooking for her family. Now these ladies come together to share their knowledge and wealth of experience with other cooking enthusiasts.
During the classes, guests learn traditional cooking techniques, culinary secrets, and helpful hints for recreating the dishes at home. They even hear fun stories from the ladies, thus gaining a better grasp of Fijian life and culture.
The team at Flavors of Fiji Cooking School begins the day with shopping at local markets for fresh fruits, veggies, and seafood. They pride themselves on being farm to table and on dealing directly with local suppliers to ensure that their kitchen is filled with organic produce. The school’s recipes typically make use of favorites such as root crops, seasonal seafood, local fruits, veggies, homemade chutneys, local-style curries, fresh fruit juice, and local sweets.
You’ll get a good sense of the types of ingredients that Fijians like to use. The food most commonly eaten in Fijian villages is described on Wikipedia. For breakfast, Fijians usually consume some type of bread (for instance, homemade buns or Fiji-style long loaf bread) with butter or jam. They also drink tea for breakfast. Lunch in the villages consists of taro leaves with boiled cassava or some fresh fish soup with taro. Furthermore, dinner regularly features items such as stew, curry, or soup with fish or chicken and veggies. Stews are made with meat, potatoes, and veggies.
The signature daily class is called “Kaiviti Magiti,” which means “local feast.” During the class, guests dedicate half a day to the preparation of seven dishes! They make Fijian dishes, Indian dishes, and desserts. The menu changes frequently to keep up with what’s fresh and available at the market. The cooking school makes use of a modern, fully equipped kitchen. It overlooks the river, offering the cooking enthusiasts some beautiful water views!
Please enjoy this sample recipe from Flavors of Fiji! We particularly enjoyed the dish. It serves four, and, who knows, if you attend a class, you might get to make it!
Recipe: Ika Vakalolo (Traditional Fijian Coconut-style fish)
4 medium-sized fish fillets with or without bones
12 stalks of Chinese cabbage
1 1⁄2 cups coconut milk
1⁄4 cup oil
Salt to taste
- Heat oil in a pot.
- Lightly pan fry the fish fillets until golden brown.
- Place the Chinese cabbage under the fish in the pot.
- Slice the onions and tomatoes into long, thin strips, and place them on top of the fish.
- Gently pour the coconut milk into the pot, covering the fish.
- Add chilies and salt to taste.
- Squeeze the lemon just before serving.