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Fiji – The New, Organic Culinary Hotspot
When I left Australia to work at one of the most popular resorts on the island of Fiji, I decided that I would stay here for no more than 12 months. Educate the locals, put on new menus, try the local cuisine and go to the next level – maybe go to Asia’s foodie hotspot, Fiji has never been known as a culinary destination. I didn’t want to get too caught up in the old culture or be interested in their new food and wild food. We have a lot of international produce in Australia, but I quickly realized that Fijian cuisine was different from what we have been seeing in western kitchens for years. Local produce and organic ingredients are abundant, unchanged, and the fresh food tastes as good as it did years ago for people living outside of Fiji. Fijians are surrounded by an abundance of this unadulterated food from the sea, land and rivers. Its highly saline soil from its volcanic eruptions provides fertile land that is the envy of the world, and with little commercial fishing, its lakes still hold plenty of wild fish for the local market.
Another striking difference from the West is that there are no food allergies in Fiji. In contrast to the growing global epidemic, most Fijians can eat anything and everything. Fijians are descendants of a different lineage of hominoids to Caucasians, so their genetic makeup does not include important genes that cause Celiac Disease and other food-related disorders, which are caused in part by genetic modification and food production. So it was surprising that when I arrived in Fiji, many of the local chefs did not understand why tourists asked for gluten-free food. And beware of MSG, or monosodium glutamate in your Fijian food. Banned in many countries due to its association with asthma and respiratory problems, MSG is called “Chinese Salt” here, and is used by a few local chefs to add flavor. I am very sensitive to MSG, but Fiji’s rich combination of MSG is common because their traditional cooking does not contain herbs or spices to create a deeper flavor.
I have had the opportunity to experience a culture beyond what most visitors or expats can realize. The Paramount Chief of the Mamanuca Group of Islands, home to many of Fiji’s most popular tourist destinations, has sent me as his cultural ambassador to teach tourists about his ancestral traditions and history, and to share his people’s current experiences. Not since the colonial days of Fiji has a foreigner been so close to the king of Fiji, and for this I am humbled and grateful forever, as it has helped me to understand and capture the essence of their food and culture in my modern meanings. about their food. Seeing how village women prepare their traditional food, with recipes handed down from generation to generation, is like experiencing an ancient culture before my eyes. But the recipes are important and few. Without the same food history, culinary influence or exposure to food in the media as other cultures, Fijian cuisine has not changed over the years.
Through my weekly food column in the country’s best-selling newspaper, I have had the unique opportunity to teach the world new ways to cook their produce at home. I recently returned from a Fijian Food Safari of the outer islands, visiting villages in the middle of dense jungle and on remote islands, and I was surprised that they could know or care who I was. “You’re a newspaper chef! We cut your stories and recipes every Sunday!”. So how interesting and rewarding for me to share my wisdom with people who have taught me about humanity, respect and how to be happy.
Although Fijian food in the villages is simple, it is refreshing and fresh. The humble coconut, or Tree of Life as it is known in the South Pacific, is very common in Fiji. Coconut oil is squeezed from grated coconut and mixed with water to create a sweet milk that can’t be compared to canned coconut milk. Lolo milk, or coconut milk, is used as marinades, salad dressings and in many Fijian dishes. It is the base of the trees, accompanied by fish, chicken and vegetables, onions, tomatoes, chilli, lemon and salt added to make a silky coconut salsa. On my Food Safari trip to Savusavu in northern Fiji, I turned the sauce into a Kokoda salad that I served at a VIP dinner. Kokoda is a classic Fijian salad of walu mackerel cured with citrus and herbs, similar to ceviche. I wanted to use sweet crab and shell crabs that I bought at a local market, and add some fresh squeezed wild ginger and local oranges to give the dish a subtle heat and orange flavor. The local chef had never seen this before, and when his eyes lit up after trying it, I knew I had preserved the essence of the dish without spoiling the tradition. But another classic Fijian fish dish that I have never changed is Ika Vakalolo, a pan-fried fish cooked in wood. The flavor and texture of these traditional dishes is perfect for me, and it is a favorite dish of young and old in every Fijian home and roadside restaurant.
Many foreign chefs make the mistake of trying to recreate Fijian food, but there is nothing wrong with the culinary wheel here. The basic spices and methods are there, you just need to add some bright and colorful ones without losing the meaning of the dish. The challenge for Fiji resorts is to balance the expectation of a good meat or seafood dish, with the palate of a popular tourist who is also looking for traditional cuisine. Fiji is at the peak of its tourist attraction, but tourists don’t really want the food they can get at home. Singapore has its signature lobster, Hong Kong has its dim sum and Europe is deep, but with the best training of local chefs, Fiji may one day stand alone in the region as an organic, tropical island culinary destination. food.
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