Roti lessons on Matangi. The food & flavors of India dominate the Fijian menu.
I’m not gonna lie, we skirted a very large part of the typical Fijian experience & went for the fringes. Within an hour of landing in Nadi we were on a tiny seaplane, with a very cool barefoot pilot named Jim, buzzing pristine poofs of island and clear soft coral reefs clearly visible just under impossibly blue, crystal clear warm water. Why postpone Joy?
Our first week was at Likuliku Lagoon in the Mamanuca Islands, recently chosen as a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World. Yes, the over-water Bures are big draw, and blew our minds, Cloudbreak surf access, rare, still thriving soft coral reefs; it is an epic paradise. But Executive Chef Shane Watson, was the original reason I was drawn to this all inclusive resort. Seriously, every bite his kitchen produced was impressive, fresh and just delightful. The Indo-Fijian food culture is a blend of southern Indian flavors and island ingredients making it unique to Fiji. The level of isolation adds another challenge that they tackle so impressively. The garden is fantastic, they even have their own honey bees.
Our second week was on the other side of Fiji, Matangi, a private 240-acre horseshoe shaped island. Equally glorious for different reasons, this resort boasted remarkable wildlife, I fell in deep love with her child like chihuahua sized bats and tiny baby pigs, colorful wild birds, exceptional scuba and snorkeling experiences and an authentic, indigenous vibe.
The Island farms coconuts & makes delicious coconut milk. They harvest fruits, growing much of the produce used, they are using hydroponics and aquaponics and somehow managing to keep the wild & domestic beasts out - for the most part.
They also slow cook in an underground traditional lovo; fashioned by digging a hole into the ground and lining it with coconut husks and wood, which are then lit on fire and covered by stones. Meats, fish and vegetables are wrapped in banana and taro leaves, and placed on top of the heated stones, then covered and left for hours to smoke.
But in the end, Fiji, for me, nailed it with the uber warm, sweet people, clean island food with indian flavors and that crystal bathtub sea full of life, I felt like a mermaid. My skin and hair, my whole self flourished there. It came to me that I may have died and was actually in heaven, they just didn’t want to tell me and upset me, because I did ask. I will forever think differently about dying, I will just be going to a private island in Fiji with cuddly bats and the best fish on earth.
Here are some easy and glorious recipes I was able to get from the chefs, enjoy!
Recipe from Likuliku. This is south pacific style ceviche; if you like ceviche and coconut milk you will adore this simple Fijian style fish preparation as much as I do. Tortilla chips, taro or plantain chips go super well with it.
½ lb very fresh walu (a local reef fish), mahi-mahi or snapper fillet, skinned (the freshest fish you can get)
Juice of 2 limes and 1 lemon
½ medium-sized onion, finely diced
1 small red chili, minced
½ cup finely chopped tomato
1 green onion, finely sliced
A few stems of cilantro leaves
1 cup coconut milk
1/3 tsp. sea salt
Lime wedges, garnish
Cut the fish into ½ inch dice, discarding any bloody tissue.
In a bowl, mix the fish and the citrus juices and chill to marinate for two to three hours, or until the fish is opaque.
Drain the fish, add the rest.
Mix well, chill well and serve in coconut shells or small bowl with lime wedges.
Recipe from Matangi. Indo Fijian flatbread, much like a flour tortilla. Super easy to make & delicious.
2 cups flour
2 tbl. ghee, butter or oil
1 cup boiling water
Pour boiling water into the flour and ghee. Mix to form the dough. Knead until smooth. Pull off a pixie tangerine size ball and roll it with a bit of flour, turning constantly to keep it round until the thinness of a quarter, then cook on hot dry pan - cast iron works great. Flip & lightly cook the other side. Store in a towel until serving.
SWEET HOT CHILI SAUCE
Recipe from Matangi. I grew up in the Hawaiian islands and, interestingly, this was a sauce I latched onto in Fiji, like tropical breast milk. Good on literally anything, Island ketchup. Yes, you need a kitchen scale, yes, if you don’t have one yet, you will use it and be glad you have it.
250g fresh red chilies
3 cups white vinegar
250g golden raisins (sultanas in the islands)
2 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
6-8 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tbl salt
3 cups sugar
Put on gloves before chopping chilies. In a stainless steel pot boil with the vinegar, the sultanas, the ginger and the garlic crushed with salt.
Bring to the boil and simmer gently until the sultanas are soft. Add the sugar, stir until dissolved and cooked about 15 minutes longer. Cool. Pour into sterilized bottle and seal. Keeps well.
ceviche + coconut milk = kokoda. The local walu fish really puts it over the top.
Matangi's lovo; traditional underground oven, a fijian luau
Matangi lovo pork, chickens and fish are wrapped in palm leaves then slow cooked underground
these super hot "lady finger" chilies are key to the Fijian flavor
see that ocean floor? the visibility is unreal. And the jungle islands of Matangi are so full of life.
the likuliku produce is grown for the kitchen in the gardens, guarded by their bees.
likuliku fresh squeezed coconut milk, exotic tropical fruits & local rum make the sunsets even better
likuliku amuse bouche with an icy tropical shooter and spicy, clean ocean flavors
likuliku crisp local fish with their glorious chilis and tender herbs
Cassava Cake & Prawns, my favorite breakfast on earth....so far
See you out there~
Lynette La Mere, Pure Joy Catering Executive Chef
photos by Lucas Oliver Oswald