The food in Fiji is a wonderful blend of local and international influences. The mixture of fresh, local ingredients that you find in most tropical regions is bountiful – fish, taro, coconut, sweet potatoes, fruit all made traditionally with cooking methods that have been passed down from generation to generation. As well there is a large Indian and Chinese influence which makes for a true culinary treat.
One of the favourite meals was a lovo where meat, fish and vegetables are wrapped in banana leaves are then placed on top of heated stones, cooked for a couple of hours and served hot.
I was also fortunate enough to try kokodo which is raw fish that’s been marinated in coconut cream with lime, tomatoes and onions. D-e-l-i-s-h.
Fiji is well-known for it’s kava drink which is made of the roots of a plant known to be somewhat of a sedative. Traditionally the drink was prepared by virgins who chewed the root of the pepper plant then spat that into a bowl mixing it with water. Fortunately, these days, it’s made a little more hygienically. Beware: it has a kick like a mule and it seemed to taste like mud to me. But it’s a must try.
All around Fiji there are great restaurants – too many to mention. I ate in my hotel (The Novotel) and the food was fantastic. But I ate a lot more out on the streets and markets.
There are many Chinese and Indian restaurants to try but you’ll also find their influence in many meals. The blend of all these cultures was awesome and one of my better travel eating experiences.
I visited Victoria Parade in Suva which is a long street lined with a variety of food. It could be pizza, pasta, steak, curry, ice cream or many international foods. If you have fussy kids, this is the place they can get their fill of mainstream food.
I did spy a few western fast food chains in Suva – two McDonalds stores in particular seemed to scar the streetscape for me.
One of my favourite meals was at the food court at the top of Tappoo (shopping centre). I had one of the most delicious Indian meals in 20 years. Paper Dosa all for the princely sum of $6.90 Fiji or $4.00 Australian. Dahl, curd, chutney and oh so delicious.
Suva does have several western-style fast-food outlets available, including two McDonald’s.
I ate from a few street stalls, usually fresh fruit and once or twice I tried something that I had no idea what it was but it was cooked in front of me. Cost only $1 AUST and was a small snack that was very tasty. A thali at an obscure eatery. Memories of travels afar. $14 Fiji or $8 Aust.
Fruit is available everywhere and looks a little different to what we might see in our own markets. But it’s fresh and tasty and cheap.
Here are some tips about the local food:
- Hotel restaurants are happy to allow non patrons to eat but outside you’ll struggle to find much open after 10pm unless you’re in the thick of the tourist area of say Nadi. Expect to pay western prices in the larger hotels.
- Most local food stalls are easy to order from. You can either point at what you’d like and pay. Or if vendor speaks English, they’ll happily explain what they have on offer.
Vegetarians will enjoy Fijian food. It can be a little more on the starchy side with sweet potato and taro etc. but there are great sauces and chutneys to complement any meal.
I had no tummy troubles with the food which isn’t surprising as Fiji are proud of their produce and food and are excellent at ensuring they serve the best fresh food possible.
Drink only bottled water but if possible – bring a filter and then you don’t have to use water in plastic bottles.
Breakfasts at hotels can be a mixture of full buffet style to set menu. The usual croissants, bacon and eggs, fresh juices are on offer. It should be inclusive of your stay at a hotel. Tea and coffee is simple. There was a coffee machine at the restaurant so you could get a good cappuccino if you needed one.
Tipping isn’t necessary but a nice gesture for good food and service. 10% is adequate.
Immerse yourself with the locals as they are delightful people, friendly and helpful. As always, a nod and a smile goes a long way.