After a hectic, busy and lively semester at Flinders University I was well in need of a holiday. I am not very good at relaxing, and love keeping busy and experiencing everything a destination has to offer, so Poppy and myself booked a guided tour around Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island. I was so looking forward to the sun, sand and of course, delicious food!
For me, the excitement of going on holiday is mostly fuelled by experiencing new food and culture, alongside relaxing and tanning obviously. However, food sparks the most delight and subsequently I put a lot of time and effort into research local cafes, bars and cheap eats. I do my absolute upmost to eat locally and taste traditional delicacies as much as possible. As soon as I booked my Fiji trip, my search for eateries began, whilst also trying to familiarise myself with Fijian culture.
Since becoming gluten free, this excitement is slightly dampened by nervousness around finding things I can actually eat. Although I did struggle in Fiji, I tried to not let it impact my time, and I did my best to make the most out of what was available- with a little help from my travel companions and tour guide Mike.
To summarise my experiences in Fiji, I decided to write a little blog including a selection of my best pictures and highlighting my great finds and delicious treats.
I began my foodie adventure in Nadi, staying at a beautiful hostel right on the beach. Although the food here wasn’t amazing, there were a few other places to choose from, with wide ranges of dishes, including some gluten free options! This was also our first introduction to Bounty Fijian dark rum, which came premixed with cola. Averaging at around £3, this was delicious and a lovely way to cool off after a hot day, looking out onto the sunset.
At Bamboo Cafe, just down the beach, both Poppy and myself tried a local fish ceviche with pineapple salsa and cassava crisps. Cassava is a Fijian root vegetable, like a potato, which I was able to try cooked in a number of ways throughout my trip. The sweet salsa was a great accompaniment to the salty fish, and although we both decided not to have the coconut sauce, I am sure this would have tasted great too.
Coconut seemed to be present in most dishes, and as we looked up into the huge palm trees surrounding the hostel, we understood why. Coconuts are in high supply in the tropical climate, and are, therefore, a solid base for Fijian cooking. Sadly, neither myself nor Poppy love coconut, but in small doses, I actually found it to be delicious.
I also returned to the Bamboo Café for a couple breakfasts, including a delicious porridge and fruit medley, served with cinnamon toast. I didn’t eat the cinnamon toast as it wasn’t GF, but I saved it for Poppy and she said it was delicious. The porridge was part of a traveller’s breakfast bundle, costing FJ$10 which included a hot drink. This equates to only around £4, a real bargain for the amount of food we got!
Our first stop was to Robinson Crusoe Island, where we have local Fijian buffet food. It was really delicious, and there were lots of salads, vegetable dishes and meat options to choose from. Sweet potatoes were cooking in a traditional method called lovo. Lovo involves cooking ingredients under hot coals in the ground, like a makeshift BBQ. Meat, vegetables and fish can be cooked in this method, and are wrapped in banana leaves during cooking. The potatoes had a delicious smoky BBQ flavour.
I did feel restricted during my time away, due to my gluten free requirements, but my lovely guide tried very hard to find tasty things for me to eat. Curries and rice were a great option, and I had a couple of very delicious, filling meals from local cafes. Vegetable curries and dhal were very cheap, costing around FJ$2 per pot, with rice only costing FJ$1. With this equalling just over £1, it was great value for money. There is a lot of curry in Fiji due to the large number of Indian settlers, contributing to Fiji’s wide and varied culture.
Fried rice was also a common snack for me, with a variety of fillings, including chicken, veggies and fresh fish from the coast! After a great recommendation from Poppy, I brought my lunchbox with me on the trip, which meant I was able to save leftover food and spend less money on meals. I really recommend this for travellers, especially if hostels provide free bread/fruit for breakfast. It is a simple way to save money!
Whilst we explored new and beautiful areas on the main island, we came across many food markets. Fresh produce, grown locally by Fijian farmers was not only cheap, but delicious. The pineapples, mangos and bananas made the air smell sweet, along with jackfruit and a wide range of vegetables. With lots of travel, fresh fruit was a great natural pick-me-up, full of sweet juices. A bunch of 8 bananas cost around FJ$2, as did a plate of 4 mangos. I love food markets, and try to visit as many as possible throughout my travels, I thrive from the hustle and bustle, along with the friendly locals and great bargains.
Throughout our tour of Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island, I was lucky enough to be invited to eat with a village, along with the rest of the travel group. This included a traditional Kava ceremony, which involves tasting a cup of local drink, brewed and made by hand from a Kava plant root. Kava is a type of pepper plant, and its juice is said to have medicinal purposes, including relaxing muscles before childbirth- however, I just found it made my mouth a little numb.
The local food we ate in the village included chicken, cassava, plantain, fried vegetables, spinach and coconut and many more lovely dishes. I even took my lunchbox and filled it so I could have my seconds for dinner. It made it even more special as it was cooked by the local women, they were all incredibly talented, I would happily have them cook for me every day- I am sure they could teach me a lot!
Not only were all the savoury dishes delicious, I also enjoyed my fair share of sweet treats too. In the heat, aside from a fresh bottle of bounty rum and cola, nothing was better than a smoothie or milkshake. At Smugglers Cove hostel in Nadi, they had a range of smoothes that were so refreshing and tasty. In my opinion, nothing beats a banana smoothie, even though the berry and tropical options sounded great too! A small smoothie cost FJ$4, which was just the perfect amount for a mid-morning refreshment in the 30+ degree sun.
Ice-creams were also incredibly tempting in the midday sun, and I did succumb to buying a Magnum during one of the bus journeys. With a different range than we have in the UK, it would’ve been rude not to try at least one! Both Poppy and myself opted to a honeycomb Magnum, which was very similar to a crunchy ice cream in the UK. it was delicious- I definitely recommend.
I am incredibly lucky to have visited such a beautiful country, and learn about new cultures and experience new ways of life. The Fijian culture is open and welcoming and we experienced nothing but heartfelt acceptance. I truly feel like I lived like a local.
Now I am back in Oz, I am hoping to continue with my Australian cooking blogs, uncovering amazing places to eat during my upcoming travels!