Tonight we had a meal from Fiji, and once again it was not as I expected. To be honest, I’m not sure what I expected from the meal, but this was similar in ways to others we’ve had, including Malawi.
Our dinner was Fish Suruwa, or Fijian Fish Curry. We started by sautéing onions in oil with cinnamon sticks until they were soft, adding garlic as it cooked. To this we added a chili (we cut back from the suggested two to one for this wuss), and the spices garam masala, cumin, and turmeric. Once this was fragrant we added diced tomatoes until they began to break down, finally adding the fish, drizzling lemon juice over the top.
We served this over rice and, though the kids weren’t excited about fish again, we all enjoyed it and went back for seconds. The flavour of the dish stood out and we found the fish not too strong, barely noticed in the sauce. The dish had a mild taste, not spicy like the recent Malawian meal. We forgot to add the cilantro but will make this again and will have to try it then, but the kids have requested we try it with chicken instead of the fish.
We ended up having two desserts, one chosen by one of the kids, and one by me. Ashaya chose the Fijian Honey Cake, though she ended up not enjoying it. Made with flour, sugar, sour cream, honey, egg, oil, baking soda, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and topped with almonds, it was different than anything I usually make where I mix in stages, instead mixing it all at once. I wasn’t sure how it would work, but it mixed quite nicely and in the end rose quite a bit and was light and airy.
The cake was sweet, though not like banana bread sweet, but a honey sweet. I didn’t mind it, though I wouldn’t eat very much at once with it being so sweet. Some of the kids didn’t like it at all and didn’t finish their piece. With this being so simple to make I’ll likely try it again but add more almonds to the top.
Our second dessert was my choice, the Vakalolo, or Fijian Pudding. I chose this mainly because it had taro root it in, something I’d seen many times in the store and longed to try but didn’t know where or how.
The taro root is quite starchy and took a while to finely grate, almost making more of a paste. To this we added grated coconut and ginger, brown sugar, clove, and cinnamon. This would usually be wrapped in a banana leaf, but as ours were still frozen we opted for the alternate foil in order to get it done. This the steamed for 40 minutes. As it cooked I simmered some coconut milk and salt on the stove which would be a topping for the pudding.
This was pretty tasty and reminded me of coconut macaroons in the texture. I liked it better without the coconut topping and next time would instead use whipped coconut with a hint of sugar. Not everyone enjoyed this and some was left behind on plates.
Did you know that Fiji is made up of 333 islands, 223 of which are uninhabited? They were colonized by the British between 1874 and 1970.
Before the Christian missionaries arrived the Fijian tribes practiced canabalism. Ratu Udre Udre, a Fijian war chief, is considered the most active cannibal in history, having reportedly consumed between 872 and 999 people. Though no longer practiced, the Fijians have embraced this aspect of their long history (beginning around 400BC), selling memorabilia in their shops, including humorous cannibal dolls. Human flesh had been mistakenly eaten and thought of as pork by some Europeans in the 1800s as it both resembled and tasted like pork.
Women were once strangled the day their husbands died that they may be buried with them. Unless you were a chief, wearing a hat and sunglasses in a Fijian village was highly frowned upon.
Finally, there are 800 plants unique to the islands and water is their main commercial export.