Fiji conjures images of golden beaches, swaying palms and sunshine. But did you know it is also an emerging food-loverís paradise? The island nation is made up of 333 islands and a thousand ways to eat, from cooking classes to local markets and resort fine dining to traditional treats, fruits and fish aplenty, as well as an abundance of curry dishes and coconut cream-based delights if your little ones are particularly spicy-tongued.
Fijian fare is a unique mix of the different ethnicities peppered throughout the island at various times in history: the Polynesians, Melanesians and Micronesians came first, followed by the Indians, Chinese and Europeans. Each culture has brought a splash of culinary diversity, seen in the dishes served both at resorts and in local homes.
Shangri-La's Fijian Resort and Spa
Traditional dining in Fiji is a community event and one of the best
ways to immerse yourself in this Pacific culture is by joining an experience such as
Shangri-Laís Fijian Resort & Spaís Marau Village visits.
The evening opens with a
Polynesian dance performance and a fire and knife show, before guests are seated
around a large communal table to enjoy the island flavours with bare hands.
ones will love taking part in the local dining tradition of lovo Ė food cooked deep
in the earth. Here, meats, chicken, seafood and veggies are wrapped up in banana
leaves and cooked in an underground oven built by digging a hole and filling it with
firewood and red hot stones.
Flavours of Fiji Cooking School
Slicing, rolling, baking and boiling up Fijiís favourite foods is a great experience
for young and old alike. The kidsí classes at the Flavours of Fiji
will have the little ones whipping up home-style dishes, from Ika Vakalolo
(coconut-style fish) to Dhal soup.
Guided through by brilliant local cooks and with a
focus on the nutritional properties of the islandís in-season foods Ė including root
crops, local veggies, chutneys, juices, traditional sweets and fruits Ė this Fijian
flavour tour is suitable for all levels of experience and kids eight to 16 years.
After your little chefs are tuckered out, the adults can gather around a community
bowl of crushed kava root. This traditional, tongue-tingling drink is known as yaqona,
and owing to its medicinal and cultural significance, thereís a fascinating village
ceremony that goes along with consuming it in the presence of new friends, island
guests and loved ones.
Fruit and Fish dishes
The daily Nadi produce market is the best place to get a taste of whatís in season and
also an amazing way to interact with the local people. Unlike many noisy and bustling
markets worldwide, itís invitingly kid-friendly, reflective of the laidback Fijian
Food hawkers gather in the streets, casually chatting with one another
over their bundles of fruit and veg: sweet papayas, mangoes, red and green chillies,
fresh ginger, avocados and, of course, lots and lots of coconuts!
Fijiís seafood is legendary; its fish, prawn, clams, lobster and cray creations simply
melt in the mouth. In the seafood section of the market, fishermen jovially tempt
passersby with their daily catch. Fish-frenzied families also must try Kokoda, Fijian
coconut ceviche, an island favourite. This deceptively simple but super-delish dish
is made from raw local fish cured in lemon or lime juice and served in coconut cream
tossed with onions and chillies.
Even on an island paradise, mum and dad sometimes need that afternoon caffeine hit
to keep pace with the ever-energetic ankle-biters. After the kids have done their
200th backflip into the crystal blue waters, recharge at the family-run
Bulaccino Cafť for some of the best coffee and pick-me-up treats in Fiji.