Old Fashioned Receipies For Southern Fried Chicken From The South Fiji – The New, Organic Culinary Hotspot

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Fiji – The New, Organic Culinary Hotspot

When I originally left Australia to work at one of the iconic Fiji island resorts, I thought I wouldn’t be here for more than 12 months. Train the residents, set up new menus, try the local cuisine and move on to the next assignment – ​​perhaps to more foodie Asia, as Fiji has never been known as a culinary destination. I really didn’t intend to be so engrossed in an ancient culture or so curious about their fresh food and wild diet. In Australia we have plenty of world-class produce in our homes, but I quickly learned that Fijian culinary delights are unlike anything we’ve seen in Western kitchens for decades. The local produce is mostly organic, not genetically modified, and the food is fresh like in years past for people living outside of Fiji. Fijians are surrounded by this abundance of fresh unadulterated food from its sea, land and rivers. Its mineral-enriched soil from its volcanic landscape provides fertile ground that is the envy of the world, and with minimal commercial fishing, its oceans still provide plenty of wild fish for both the local market.

Another striking contrast to the West is that there are almost no food allergies here in Fiji. Contrary to the growing health epidemic around the world, most Fijians can eat anything and everything. Indigenous Fijians are descendants of a different line of Caucasian hominoids, and so their unique genome contains the key genes that cause Celiac Disease and other food-related allergies, caused in part by genetic and synthetic changes in the food chain. So it was surprising that when I arrived in Fiji, most of the local chefs understood why tourists wanted gluten-free food. And be aware of MSG, or monosodium glutamate, in your Fijian food. Banned in most countries due to its association with asthma and breathing difficulties, MSG is affectionately called “Chinese Salt” here, and is used liberally by local chefs to enhance flavor. I am very sensitive to MSG, but Fijian’s heavy hand with MSG is quite common because their traditional food lacks the use of herbs or infusions to create depth of flavor.

I was very fortunate to have a cultural experience beyond what many tourists or foreign workers in this country can have. The Paramount Chief of the Mamanuca Islands Group, home to many of Fiji’s island resorts, appointed me as his cultural ambassador to educate tourists on ancestral traditions and history, and share modern experiences with his people. Not since Fiji’s pre-colonial days has a foreigner been so close to a Fijian leader, and for that I am forever humbled and grateful for allowing me to understand the essence of their food and culture in my modern interpretations. and take from their food. Watching the women in the villages prepare their traditional dishes, with recipes that have been passed down for generations, is like living an ancient culture before my eyes. But the recipes are basic and limited. Without the same level of culinary history, culinary influence or exposure to food in the media as other cultures, Fijian cuisine has remained essentially unchanged for many decades.

Through my weekly food column in the country’s largest selling newspaper, I had a unique opportunity to teach a nation new ways to cook its own local produce at home. I recently returned from a Fijian Food Safari of the outer islands, visiting villages deep in the dense rainforest and on remote islands, and I was shocked that they would even know or care who I am. “You are the boss of the newspaper! We cut your stories and advice every Sunday!”. So how fun and personally rewarding it is for me to share my knowledge with people who teach me humanity, respect and how to be happy.

While traditional Fijian cuisine is simple in the countryside, it is modern and organic and fresh. The humble coconut, or Tree of Life as it is known throughout the South Pacific, dominates Fijian cuisine. Coconut oil is extracted from roasted coconuts and diluted with water to create coconut milk that is incomparable to canned coconut milk. Lolo, or coconut milk, is used as a marinade, salad dressing and in many Fijian desserts. It’s a miti base, a companion to fish, chicken and vegetables, added with onion, tomato, chilli, lemon and salt to make a silky coconut salsa. On my Food Safari trip to Savusavu in northern Fiji, I adapted miti for a new Kokoda salad I was serving for a VIP dinner presentation. Kokoda is a classic Fijian walu mackerel salad mixed with miti, similar to ceviche. I wanted to use local market-bought and sweet crabs, and so added freshly squeezed wild ginger and local oranges to the miti to give the dish a subtle heat and citrus tones. The local chef had never seen this before, and when her eyes lit up after the test, I knew that I had preserved the originality of the dish without destroying the tradition. But another classic Fijian fish dish recipe that I haven’t changed is Ika Vakalolo, fried fish cooked in miti. The flavor and balance of this traditional dish is perfect for me, and it is a dish that is loved by young and old in every Fijian home and roadside cafe.

Many foreign chefs make the mistake of trying to reinvent Fijian cuisine, but there is nothing wrong with the cycle here. The basic flavors and techniques are there, you just need to add some sparkle and flavor without losing the essence of the food. The challenge for Fiji resorts is to balance the expectation of a good steak or seafood trio, with the adventurous palate of the foodie traveler who is also looking for a cultural dining experience. Fiji is on the verge of embracing food tourism, but tourists don’t necessarily want the same food they can get back home. Singapore has its oysters, Hong Kong has its lack and Europe is steeped in the classics, but with the advanced training of local chefs, Fiji could one day hold its own in the region as a culinary destination for the organic and tropical island. the restaurant.

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