How Indians added fire and spice and a lot that’s nice to Fijian cuisine
Fiji is the melting pot of the Pacific, with a unique indigenous cuisine based on complex root crops, a variety of seafood, an array of life-enhancing green vegetables and herbs, and vibrant fruits that sync with tropical flavours.
But it was only when the Indians migrants started landing in Fiji that things began to spice up in Fijian kitchens and homes.
Combining natural Fijian ingredients with the ancient cuisine knowledge of India, and whatever few spices they managed to bring with them or could procure regularly on a limited basis back in those early settlement days, what emerged and evolved over the next few generations is a fusion cuisine like no other.
Indo-Fijian cuisine or the Fiji-Indian food is a unique manifestation of the Indian diaspora because of the context in which it developed.
For migrants, food, cuisine and food traditions are among the most vital foundation elements of their new evolving culture. Food is central to their individual and collective identities.
It is hard to imagine a Fijian table without curry. In fact visitors to Fiji often comment that the Indian food in Fiji is better than back in India.
In her book Tropical Vegetarian, Sadhna Wilson succeeds in recording her family recipes, the first in a series of Fijian Indian recipe books so that collectively she may be able to have an extended documentation of traditional recipes, cooking methods and stories from Fiji Indian kitchens and homes.
Recipes are not just food: they provide intangible links to the history and heritage. By writing this book, Sadhna reminds us that food is emotional, it is nostalgic, it reassures us that flavours continue timelessly beyond boundaries, and that as recipes and knowledge fall into a new generation of hands, it also reminds them of who they are.
The writer is a Former Ministerial Advisor and a Guest Columnist for The Indian Sun