Fiji is better known for its beaches rather than its cuisine. However, this small island nation still has a rich culinary heritage. Traditional cooking methods consist of cooking over an open fire or in an underground oven. The large Indo-Fijian community has left a lasting impact on the country’s food. Many Indians came to Fiji in the 1870s as indentured servants who worked in this former British colony’s sugarcane industry. They introduced many curries and chilies that make this Pacific island nation’s cuisine distinct from its neighbors. Sweet potato, rice, cassava, coconut, fish, and taro (a starchy root vegetable similar to yam) is used to create amazing Fijian dishes. Whether served by locals while you stay a rental, or whether you try it out served at a resort in Fiji, you shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to try these dishes. For accommodation, book a luxury escape or have an all-inclusive resort stay. And to indulge your palate, you must try some of these top traditional food in Fiji.
1. Kokoda (Fijian raw fish salad)
Mostly served as an appetizer, kokoda is similar to Hawaii’s poke and Peru’s ceviche. While not exclusively Fijian, it is found all over the country and served as an exotic dish in some island resorts. Like ceviche, kokoda consists of raw fish marinated in lime and lemon juices. The citrusy juices “cook” the raw fish. However, what makes it different from both ceviche and poke is its inclusion of coconut milk.
Other basic ingredients found in kokoda are chilies, onions, and seawater. The most commonly used fish is walu, which is a Spanish mackerel. Kokoda is commonly served in a coconut shell.
2. Lovo (a banquet cooked using an earth oven)
Lovo is a Fijian delicacy that is usually prepared for a large social gathering such as a wedding or a festival. In Fiji, “lovo” means a “ feast cooked in the earth.” New Zealand has its own variation of this dish, which is known as “hangi”. Lovo is cooked in a homemade oven that is a hole in the ground lined up with coconut husks. The husks are then lit on fire, and covered with stone. A combination of meat, fish, and vegetables are wrapped in banana and taro leaves. The most common meats used in lovo are pork and chicken. The lovo is placed on dirt-covered heated stones and left there for a period of about two to three hours. This results in the meat becoming tender and flavorful. The leaves and underground oven also give lovo a smoky flavor.
3. Duruka (Fijian asparagus)
Duruka is commonly known as the “Fijian asparagus.” It is the unopened flower of a cane shoot, which is a plant similar to sugar cane. It can be found throughout Southeast Asia and other Pacific islands too. Fijians have both red and green varieties of duruka. It can be added to many different kinds of ingredients such as coconut milk or curries. Red duruka has a hard texture compared to the green variety, which is softer.
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4. Taro (a yam-like staple of Fijian cuisine)
One of the unsophisticated traditional Fijian food, Taro is a heavy, starchy root vegetable similar to potatoes and yams. It can be either cut into fries or chips or mashed and boiled. Taro has been a staple of the Fijian diet for many centuries. It even has its own holiday, Taro Day, which is celebrated during the first full moon in May.
Fiji became a major export of taro in the early 1990s when neighboring Samoa experienced the taro leaf blight, which destroyed its local taro industry.
5. Nama (Fijian sea grapes)
While nama is known as “sea grapes,” it is a misnomer. Nama is a kind of seaweed that can be found all over Fiji. Other countries use nama as an ingredient in a soup or stew. However, in Fiji, it is used as a garnish and can be added to either a salad or coconut milk. Fijians use nama in a thick paste that also consists of a coconut paste known as the kora, freshly grated coconut, chili, lemon juice, and salt.
6. Roti (flatbread)
One prominent example of the influence of the Indo-Fijian community on Fijian cuisine is the humble roti. This popular food in Fiji is a simple flatbread that usually accompanies a curry dish or other meals. Most of the best places to eat in this island country serve this delicious staple.
7. Kuita Vakalolo (Octopus Stewed in Coconut Cream)
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
Kuita vakalolo is a traditional Fijian dish that holds cultural significance. It’s a creamy and savory dish made from the stem of the dalo (taro) plant, coconut milk, and various flavorsome ingredients. The dalo stem is peeled, cut into pieces, and cooked with spices, coconut milk, and sometimes meat or seafood. This delicacy is prepared during special occasions, gatherings, and celebrations, reflecting Fijian customs and heritage.
Kuita Vakalolo represents the Fijian connection to the land, their rich culinary history, and the importance of communal sharing.
8. Topoi (Fijian dumplings)
Topoi is a Fijian dumpling that has a sweet taste to it. It includes grated cassava and coconut, coconut milk or cream, and sugar. This mixture of ingredients is shaped into a ball. It is then simmered inside a pot of boiling water until it is soft and cooked thoroughly. This Fiji culture food is definitely one that you should try while you’re there.
9. Fish Suruwa (fish curry)
Fish Suruwa is another dish that showcases the Indo-Fijian community’s influence upon Fijian cuisine. Commonly served at weddings, it is eaten with rice as a main course. It is a very spicy dish and includes spices and flavorings such as garam masala, coconut milk, cumin, and cinnamon. These flavors and spices mix well with the fish.
10. Palusami (mashed taro leaves with coconut cream)
Palusami is among the traditional Fijian dishes that include taro leaves as the main ingredient. The boiled leaves are mashed into a rich, fine vegetable curry. There are little to no spices or chilies included in this food, unlike other Fijian dishes. It is garnished with coconut cream. Lamb chunks are sometimes included as well. Palusami has a stewed spinach-like taste. It has both vegetarian and non-vegetarian versions.
11. Fiji chop suey
The food culture in Fiji has also been influenced by Chinese cuisine over the years. The island country has a small but long-established Chinese community, which has also influenced some of the popular local dishes. Fijian chop suey is a staple meal, as it is sold in many food courts and restaurants throughout the country. Ingredients include chicken, ginger garlic paste, red hot chilies, onions, carrots, Chinese cabbage, and oyster sauce.
12. Cassava cake (traditional moist cake)
Another root vegetable that has a huge impact in Fiji cuisine is Cassava, and this sweet dessert is a testament to how tasty this ingredient is. Known as tapioca or sago in other parts of the world, cassava serves as the main showstopper in this sticky cake. The dessert dish has a similar texture to glutinous rice, and it’s usually topped with butter, fruit preserves, or fresh fruits.
13. Rourou (taro leaves)
In Fijian cuisine, the root is not the only part of the Taro plant that gets used. Rourou is the leafy part of the taro plant, which has a similar look and texture to spinach. It’s traditionally cooked by stewing in coconut milk until it reaches a creamy consistency. This delicious food is traditionally served as a side dish accompanying Fiji’s tasty main dishes.
Try these dishes when you visit Fiji
When in Fiji, explore the top things to do while staying at the best Airbnbs or holiday homes. But most of all - eat! While these dishes may be relatively simple, they are rich in flavor. The indigenous culture combined with different immigrant communities has created a cuisine unique to the South Pacific. Roti and Fish Suruwa showcase the influence the Indo-Fijian community has on this Pacific archipelago. It also has influences of its own geographic location, as fish and coconuts are common ingredients to traditional Fijian food. This country has much more to offer than just beautiful beaches.
Frequently asked questions about the top traditional food in Fiji
1. What is the most popular food in Fiji?
Likely the most prolific and popular food in Fiji is Kokoda. It’s a raw fish salad akin to the ceviche of Southern America or the poke bowl of Hawaii. It’s made up of raw fish marinated in citrus, tossed with coconut cream, onion, tomatoes and chillis.
2. What do Fijians eat for breakfast?
There are many different types of breakfast dishes in Fiji. One such breakfast dish is the Babakau, which essentially is fried bread made from a mixture of simple ingredients, such as flour, sugar, water, and yeast.
3. What do they drink in Fiji?
The most popular drink in Fiji is reportedly Kava, which is a staple in this island’s food and drinks culture. It’s made from yaqona that has been ground and mixed with water. This drink has an earthy and peppery taste.
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