This week I broke my fast at a Fijian friend’s house – she is married to an Emirati so the Iftar fare was a mixture of Arabic and Fijian cuisine. The reason I was there was because my friend had brought some breadfruit and cooked it in Fijian style with Roti and wanted me to go down memory lane as we enjoyed our iftar experience.
Fijian cuisine is unique and often one can’t recreate the taste elsewhere although in some cases one can come close. I have been battling to make soft round roti’s and curries abroad for years but because it is hard to get fresh organic ingredients easily in other countries, the taste is never the same.
Occasionally we get overjoyed when we see a rare vegetable that we associate to our extensive Fijian produce and are able to cook it Fijian style as we have all the vegetables the rest of the world has but more….where else can you get a vegetable as tasty as daruka. (this is not going to be another whitebait style story, I swear. In my defence, there is no fish in the world that is as delicious as whitebait so I had to gloat about the fact that we get it in Fiji and my family always keeps this rare treat for me when it is in season)
In Fiji, we love our root crops – so instead of eating bread and rice all the time, we get our carbs through tapioca, yam (dalo), taro, breadfruits, sweet potatoes etc. We are also super lucky that our cuisine is influenced by old-world civilizations mainly Polynesian/Melanesians, Indians and Chinese with a dose of influence from our Kiwi and Aussie neighbours.
Our styles of cooking happens to be an interesting experience as well. As Polynesians, we love cooking lovo (food marinated and cooked underground on hot stones) often accompanied with root crops. We also enjoy spicy Indian cuisine and Chinese delicacies (our chop suey, chow mien and stir fries are out of this world).
Our cooks, family members and young chefs are spoilt for choice when it comes to the variety of fresh food so they use their imagination to experiment and come up with amazing food that Fijians abroad and visitors of Fiji keep coming back for. We come from a world where we can cook fresh white fish entirely in lemon juice, wash it and make a mean salad (kokonda) that our visitors talk about for days.
I also remember the times in Dubai the would go scouring for jackfruit in Karama with Fijian friends when we craved Fijian food – being a snobbish marama, I normally would not venture to Karama for love or for money but for jackfruit, or any Fijian delicacy, I am willing to put up with anything. Eaten ripe, jackfruits are the most sweetest and succulents of desserts (very popular in Asia) but I prefer the young ones cut in small pieces and fried with garlic, onion, chillies and tumeric with Fijian style roti.
I still go to Lulu Supermarket to get the ripe ones from Malaysia for my better half and the raw ones for me to cook with. In Thailand, the ripe ones are cut in small pieces and served in sweet coconut milk as desserts….lush! What is great also is that the green jackfruit is full of vitamins that helps to prevent many sicknesses like fighting cancer and lowering blood pressure.
It is going to be Eid next week and I certainly will miss my usual delicacies like fried jackfruit and going to the amazing markets in Fiji full of organic food fresh from the farms every morning. I’m glad though that NJD is coming back to Dubai post Eid and is bringing me back some of the Eid goodies like barfi, coconut candy and a few other decadent and sinful things that I so enjoy!
In the meantime, I want to get my retirement sorted in Fiji – with the world in chaos, it’s about time I earned in Fiji dollars and enjoyed life under a coconut palm complete with a drink that has a multi-coloured umbrella in it. Oh well! – a girl can dream!