Learning to cook Fiji-style
Vuda Point Marina here in Fiji offers the occasional event that helps make the boatyard time go by faster. They have a Happy Hour night, Half-price Pizza, and a once a month Farmers’ Market. The event I look forward to most, though, is the cooking class offered by Nicholas Steven, the chef at the Boatshed Restaurant and Sunset Bar every Wednesday afternoon at 5:00.
Nicholas is a handsome and charming Fijian who really could have a future with a cooking show. He is from the Lau group of islands, the least developed islands, so he grew up in a traditional Fijian village. Now, he is teaching us all how to prepare some traditional Fijian dishes, and we are having a grand time. The first time I went to the class, we learned how to make Nama & Kuita Salad – otherwise called Octopus and Sea Grape Salad. Nicholas also tells us where to find the ingredients at the market in Lautoka, and he teaches us the names of the ingredients (sometimes Fijian words, sometimes Indian) so we will know what to ask for when we go shopping. Sea Grapes are a type of seaweed we can find in the market here, and it’s really very tasty.
At yesterday’s class we learned to make Fish Curry with Coconut Chutney. This is not the sort of sticky sweet chutney in a jar we usually see in North America. Here in Fiji, when you order curry in a restaurant, it often comes with these little side cups of various chutneys that add to the flavor of the curry. I learned the hard way that when they ask you if you want rice or roti, if you say roti, it means you will be expected to eat the curry with the roti flat bread and you won’t get a fork. After my one visit for lunch on a shopping trip in Lautoka, I could get the yellow out from under my fingernails for days. Next time I’ll just speak up and ask for a fork.
So here is chef Nicholas Steven’s recipe for Fish Curry with Coconut Chutney Fiji-style.
- 2 cups freshly grated coconut
- 1 cup fresh coriander (also known as cilantro)
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice (or more if you like it more moist)
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger minced
- 1 small red chili pepper chopped with seeds and stem removed (there are many peppers here in the markets and this type is not the nuclear hot type – it is fairly mild)
- salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients and chill. Will keep refrigerated for 2 weeks.
Fish Curry in Coconut Curry Sauce
- Four fish filets
- Cooking oil
- 1 onion sliced
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped ginger
- 1 cup coconut cream
- 1 tablespoon haldi (turmeric)
- 2 tablespoons masala
- 1 teaspoon methi (fennel seed)
- 1 teaspoon geera (coriander seed)
- 1 teaspoon sarso (mustard seed)
- 2 tablespoons fresh coriander chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat oil in a heavy frying pan
- Dredge fish pieces in flour and fry until lightly browned
- Remove fish
- Add the three seeds to oil and fry until plump
- Add onion and sauté until translucent
- Add ginger and garlic
- Add turmeric and masala
- Return fish to the pan
- Add coconut cream
- Simmer stirring frequently for 5-8 minutes
- Stir in fresh coriander and simmer for one minute
Serve with hot rice.
One of the best parts about the class is that at the end, we all get to sample the dish Nicholas has made!