Taki MaiTaki Mai

By Zane Yoshida

Got any favourite Fijian foods, dishes, snacks, or nibbles that you like to tuck into when you have a kava session?

Some people like to take their kava on an empty stomach and eat afterwards; others prefer to eat first.

Either way, it helps to know what the locals eat when the kava comes out, because they’ve been using kava for centuries and have learnt plenty about its digestive effects and which foods best precede, follow, or accompany a coconut shell full of kava (or a Taki Mai kava shot).

Traditional Fijian foods

The cuisine in Fiji is a fine blend of the various ethnicities that make up the population: predominantly the indigenous Fijians and the Indians, with a hint of Chinese influence.

Since the main consumers of kava have always been the indigenous Fijians, it makes sense to look at their traditional foods as accompaniments to the brew.

One of the traditional ways of cooking in Fiji is on hot stones underground. Similar to the Maori way of cooking, this is called a ‘Lovo’, which is essentially an underground oven with white-hot stones that are used to cook meat, seafood, and various root vegetables wrapped in banana leaf. This slow-cook method is well-loved in Fiji and there’s plenty of time to enjoy the kava while the food cooks underground.

Another traditional Fijian dish is the Kokoda. This is raw fish marinated in coconut milk and lemon juice and then prepared in a salad with coriander, celery, onion, tomato, and spring onion. There might also be a splash of chilli.

Added to the these typically Fijian touches is a wide variety of fish and seafood prepared in many different ways. Grouper and coral cod are particularly popular.

In terms of vegetables, a special mention must go to root crops like cassava, sweet potato, and taro, which are used in a variety of dishes and are a staple of Fijian cooking.

Then there are the Indian-inspired and rich-tasting curries that are a feature of virtually all Fijian kitchens.

Fijian fruits

In kava bars in the west, you often see kava served with a ring or half a ring of pineapple. The sweet and sour lushness of the fruit complements the earthiness and bitterness of the taste of the kava.

Other seasonal fruits might also accompany kava. In Fiji, this could be watermelon, bananas, papaya, mango, guava, mandarin, and coconuts, some of which are available all year round.

What’s your preference with kava? Feel free to add a comment about any favourite goods that we’ve missed from the list.

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