Monday, July 14, 2008

The Lovo - A traditional Fijian Feast

A week ago, we came back from Fiji, most of our time spent in the Yasawa Islands. Our home was the Fiji Princess for 6 of the 7 nights were were there. The cruise company, Blue Lagoon Cruises were awesome and the crew took really good care of us. It was a wonderful way to visit many different islands and beaches, see lots of marine life when snorkling as well as participate in cultural activities. More in future posts.

If I thought Bathurst was rustic, I hadn't seen anything yet! These islands don't have any telephone lines and the village generators are run only on special occasions. While almost all of the meals we had were quite westernised, my favourite and most memorable was the lovo. A special Fijian feast usually prepared only at huge celebrations such as weddings, we were fortunate that it was part of our tour to experience it and we were invited to watch the cooks prepare it.

First, a hole about only as deep as your arm up to your elbow is dug. Depending on how much you are cooking for, a typical size is about 2 by 2 metres. Firewood is placed in the hole and a fire is lit. Medium sized rocks are then piled on top of the fire. When the rocks start glowing hot and the firewood has collapsed so the rocks have sunk into the hole (needs a bit of gentle persuasion from a shovel),

it is time to make a "grill" on which the wrapped meat and root vegetables rest. This is made of layered banana leaf stems.

Next various meat such as sides of pork, lamb, whole fish wrapped in banana leafs or foil as well as the traditional root vegetables dalo (or taro), cassava and kumela (local sweet potato), are laid onto the strong stems. I can't believe they weaved the baskets housing the meats and veggies so intricately!

A blanket of banana leaves is then laid on top.

And yet more banana leaves ... can't have too many banana leaves!

This is followed by coconut? fronds

Then some sack cloth ...

And finally some tarp ... nothing like a bit of plastic for insulation

Although an island beach party was planned, we had to have dinner back on board the boat as a torrential rain storm hit in the evening. The crew so nicely ferried us and then later our dinner back in the rain!

Simeli the head stewart ran through the different meats and vegetables and a few additional dishes. This included a divine local raw fish salad known as kokoda (pronounced kokonda) and cooked curried vegetables and sauteed local spinach.

My plate from the buffet...
Clockwise from bottom, piece of taro, curried veggies, lamb, pork sitting on a bed of rourou, kumela, bit of fish and cassava to the left of the fish. The root vegetables were cut extremely big and chunky. Though tasty and tender, they were extremely starchy and filling so I couldn't finish them. The meat was spectacular, all of it was fork tender and had the most exquisite smoky flavour. I think the rourou (local spinach) might also have been cooked in the lovo then sauteed because it also had that smoky flavour.

More pics and stories to come but this is one of my favourite pics, taken just off a village shore.

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At 5:52 AM, Blogger KirkK said...

Wow Fiji!!! How romantic. The process of cooking the meat looks almost the same as the traditional way to make kalua pig. How interesting.....sounds like you had a great time.

At 8:55 PM, Blogger Rachel said...

Wow Kirk I should read up more on this kalua pig... or search for it on your blog :)

hehe Fiji might be romantic if you weren't sharing a boat with 37 other passengers and 22 crew. It was lots of fun though.


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