Fijian food is delicious!
If you come to Fiji, whether your hosts are iTaukei (indigenous) or Indo-Fijian, make sure that you ask them if it is ok if they serve you the normal food that they eat, as so many Fijians really do believe that you won’t like the food at all, and are really not sure what you will eat at all, as they believe that there is nothing in the cuisine that you will like.
Here is a little recipe which can be easily adapted if you want to try it. These balls are really light and delicious and are the perfect quick fix if you are having friends over for drinks at the last minute, or have to take something to a party. It is my husband’s only concession to Kava (yaqona – pronounce yangona) drinking and our mix of cultures. Traditionally, food is not eaten at all until all of the Kava is finished and the guests are gone. In fact, it is traditional that the male guests do not eat no matter what kind of feast is prepared, but you must pack a meal for them to take home. It is a real panic if you have inadvertently run out of yoghurt containers for the purpose! Anyway, I digress: if my husband invites people home, he asks if I can cook this quick snack, and serve it while the kava ceremony is in progress, which is normally several hours.
This snack is served at roadside food vendors all over Fiji (here, they are called Bean Carts). Roro is actually the name for the green dalo leaf which looks like an elephant ear, but the balls are not made with roro. If you do try and use roro, you will find that the balls make your throat itch, as roro needs to be cooked for a long time to take away that side effect. Indo-Fijians use mothe which is kind of like English Spinach, but I use bele as a substitute. Bele has a bigger leaf, and is related to the hibiscus plant, and for me at least is much easier to grow.
The only thing you have to do is make sure that you have some pea flour (besan flour), normal flour or plain flour, and oil in the cupboard just in case. The rest you can wing it.
This recipe is courtesy of Mrs Kumar of Shane Cafe in Nausori, Fiji, but I have adapted it slightly as I like to use the coconut scrapes (or fresh grated coconut) as many families simply throw it out.
All of the fresh ingredients normally come from our garden, and you can use your common sense and substitute for other stuff you have lying around.
- 1 cob fresh corn – cut kernels off the cob (or a small tin of corn)
- 1 cup very finely chopped bele, mothe, or spinach/silverbeet (bele and mothe are soft leafy vegetables freely available in Fiji)
- 1/2 cup pea or besan flour
- 1 and 1/2 cups plain or normal flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- juice of one lime OR half a lemon, OR teaspoon of any type of vinegar just to get the baking powder going
- 2 small hot chilies or to taste
- 1 small onion, very finely diced (or chopped to within an inch of its life without blood loss if you are in a hurry)
- a couple of cloves of garlic chopped as above
- salt, pepper
- a pinch of any type of curry or masala powder if you like
- corriander (dhania/cilentro) if you like
- cooking oil
- newspaper or paper towel to drain
- 1/2 cup fresh coconut scrapes, or 1/4 cup dessicated coconut
- 2 cups water
How to do it: Don’t labour over it, as it is really very quick
- take the skin of the onion and garlic, and chop roughly on a big board
- chop the spinach, chili, mothe, or bele roughly (and corriander if you like)
- then with them all on the same board, chop them up some more until they are a fine dice but not mushy
- put into medium mixing bowl
- throw in the pea flour, normal flour, salt and pepper, and the baking powder, and curry powder if you like
- throw in the coconut and corn
- pour in the water
- mix quickly and not too much
- it should be a bit sloppy, so that you can pick some up with a spoon, and use another spoon to drop it into the oil. If it is not sloppy enough, they won’t cook through
- put enough oil in a saucepan to deep fry (but you don’t need a huge amount, as you can turn the balls over)
- heat the oil on medium high heat until it is hot enough that when you drop in a tiny bit of the mix it starts to bubble, turn golden and float
- then start spooning in about
half a desert spoon of the mixture at a time into the hot oil
- depending on the size of your pot, you can take up about half the surface area. I normally put in about 6 at a time.
- they cook quite quickly so make sure you are organised with a tray and some paper towel or newspaper to drain them
- once they float and turn golden, you can turn them over a bit in the oil to make sure that they are cooked
- test one to see if it is cooked inside. If not quite, then add a tiny bit more water, and a bit more baking powder to the mix
- cook all and drain on the newspaper, paper towel
- serve hot or cold and they last even outside the fridge for a good day or two, however, they are so yummy that it is hard to
test that theory as they normally disappear by the handful!!!!
- serve with tamarind sauce (recipe next time), or tomato sauce, or barbeque sauce. You can add some chopped chili to the tomato or barbeque sauce if it is for lovers of hot food young or old
- here, we serve on a banana leaf, and it looks and tastes great