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Fijian Cuisine and Recipes

 Fijian recipes and cooking

 

Cooking by Country - February 2004

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Fiji consists of over 300 mountainous islands situated in the South Pacific, which are scattered over an area of about  518,000 sq. km. It has a total of 1,129 km  of coastline and boasts a warm, wet climate with little   temperature fluctuation throughout the seasons. Only about one third of the islands are inhabited, the largest of which are Viti Levu -10,429 sq.km and Vanua Levu - 5,556 sq. km. 

 

A multicultural society of mainly Melanesian, Polynesian, Indian and Chinese with relatively strong European influences, Fijian cuisine is another good example of fusion cooking.

 

 

Ancient Times and Influences on Fijian Cooking

 

Fiji was first settled about 3,500 years ago. Although the exact details of  who the very first settlers were, it is widely believed that these islands were initially settled by two different peoples, namely the Lapita peoples, Polynesians who originated from Southeast Asia and Melanesians who made their way to Fiji from the area around New Guinea.

 

Not only were these early settlers skilled sailors and fishermen but archaeological evidence shows they were also well practiced in farming and agricultural techniques. The Lapita brought pigs, chickens, dogs and edible plants to Fiji with them from their homelands and proceeded to cultivate root crops such as Taro, using intricate irrigation systems at the same time raising pigs and poultry for food,  as well as taking advantage of the abundance of  fish and seafood readily available to them. Although their diet seems rich in protein and diversity, cannibalism was practiced in Fiji certainly at the  time when the first Europeans arrived.

 

Cooking methods included steaming in an earth oven called a “lovo” which was often used to cook whole pigs, chickens, seafood and root vegetables such as taro as well as cooking pots made from clay. Coconut was used in all its forms.

 

The first European to visit Fiji was the Dutch Navigator Abel Tasman in 1643, however is was good old Captain Bligh of Mutiny on the Bounty fame,  who first recorded them in the late 1700s.  In the early 1800’s the discovery of sandalwood and Sea Cucumbers in the region led to an increase of Western and Eastern traders/seamen. Both commodities were  highly prized in the East and of course, western traders got involved in the trading of them in the hope of making fortunes.

 

Fiji came under British rule in1874. They introduced Cattle to the islands in the late 1800's as well as exotic fruit and spices from the Americas and Africa. They also brought in Indian indentured labourers to work on the sugar plantations which sprung up under British rule. The Indians introduced the use and cultivation of pulses as well as the use of various spices in cooking.  Over 60,000 Indians were brought to Fiji as indentured servants before the practice was abolished, resulting in over 40% of today’s population being of Indian descent.

 

Although the Chinese were never engaged as indentured workers, even though a shortage of labour made this prospect desirable, their community also developed,  mainly as shopkeepers and market gardeners.

 

 

Current Day Fijian Cuisine

 

Today Fijian cuisine is a mixture of Melanesian, Polynesian, Indian, Chinese, and Western cuisine.  Staples include  breadfruit, yam, cassava,  taro root (dalo) and leaves (rourou), meats such as beef, pork and poultry and of course , seafood. 

 

Exotic fruit such as lime, guava, mango, bananas and pineapple are also popular in both sweet and savoury dishes and we mustn’t forget coconut milk (lolo),  which is widely used in many dishes.

 

Ingredients such as garlic, ginger, turmeric, coriander, fenugreek, cumin, soy sauce and chilies are often used to flavour dishes.

 

A typical Fijian main course might consist of a dish of meat, poultry or fish, boiled taro leaves and cassava or taro as accompaniments. Indo-Fijian curries are a must.

 

 

Fijian Recipes - Click here for lots of Fijian Recipes

 

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