Tag Archives: Ana Birch

Fiji oh Fiji – Fiji Domestic Goddess Angela Ramacake Birch Delights Us With Her Home Cooked Tucker and A Night of Fijian Lovo Foods.

This time around, because I did not want to do anything but hang around Sandalwood Lodge and I had the opportunity to watch Angela cook, taste really good REAL Fijian food, I even did some cooking, I learnt how to prepare Duruka from Dole and most importantly I even got to do a class in Fiji. My first baking class in Fiji, I was so happy.

Now over the years, Angela has become quite the cook that I think the whole gang could not imagine.  Well, to be frank Aunty Ana Birch (Angela’s mum) is an excellent cook, so it would only be a matter of time before Angela would follow suit and she really has. Angela has this knack of cooking and baking with the least amount of ingredients and the end results are just simply fabulous.

Her Roast Chicken is one of them, just salt and the chook is just wonderful and her beef bones was just out of this world, and I admit I did taste the meat while tasting the gravy  and all it was beef and oyster sauce cooked till all the gravy was gone, and it was simply wonderful.  If I was eating meat, I would have devoured a good amount of it. 

Funnily enough as a cook, I would never have dared to serve a meat dish cooked with one ingredient, but Angela has changed that silly mindset of mine. 

And I admit, I have never been able to do Biscotti.  I have made it so many times and it has been a major failure after failure that I just don’t bother.

20130522_072118And then Angela does one at nearly 11 pm at night and it turned out perfect.  And the next morning I wake up to oh so perfectly sliced Biscotti right out of the oven. We didn’t even need a container to keep it because Meretalai, Dole and I ate everything even before Meretalai left for school.  It was that good. 

20130517_190207Her roasted vegetable salad had all of salt and Balsamic vinegar and it was crying to be eaten.  You could taste every single vegetable that was sautéed in olive oil and the dressing just acted as a complement.  It was simple, fast and perfect.  Each Vegetable was cooked in olive oil, then seasoned and roasted.  To me it would have been perfect with any meat dish style.  It would have been so perfect with her Beef Bones cooked with oyster sauce.  Just perfect.

On the third day I was there, the Fijian Golfing Ladies decided to have a party at the lodge. I really half didn’t want to go but in the end I was helping set up and so I just got roped in.  Now I have not had good Fijian Food in a long time.  I did have it in Bale’s but somehow a restaurant or store bought food can never be matched to home made food. So this time Aunty Sulu did all the cooking and I was told there would be some Lovo food. 

Lovo is underground cooking, something I have never been able to observe even from University days when the Fijians would cook a Lovo for International day because I would be busy preparing my Satay and all with the Singapore chicks, simply because back then none of the Malaysian students ever took part in anything.  I still think it was sad.

So now I was wondering how would someone do a Lovo for about 10 people.  Isn’t that too much hassle?

So here is the night’s menu:

1)      Lamb which for some reason I did not take a photo

Love Chicken before it was chopped up

Love Chicken before it was chopped up

2)      Chicken cooked in the Lovo



A close up of Palusami, look at the lusciousness and the burnt bit

A close up of Palusami, look at the lusciousness and the burnt bit

Palusami – to die for Roro leaves cooked in coconut milk in the Lovo

Palusami - Out of this world

Palusami – Out of this world

4)      Taro cooked in the Lovo

Dalo from the Lovo

Dalo from the Lovo

5)      Boiled Fish with Wild Ferns (Sayur Paku) served with coconut cream

Bolied Fish with Wild Ferns

Bolied Fish with Wild Ferns

6)      A Coleslaw


7)      A Garden Salad with CHILLIES

Garden Salad with fiery Chillies -  Only in Fiji

Garden Salad with fiery Chillies – Only in Fiji

Amidst the music and the dancing thanks to Francis, a little Chinese man formerly from Singapore and now living in Fiji, we had such wonderful food.

Now as everyone knows I don’t like fish that looks like the one in the photo.  Before I could say no, it was plonked on my plate.  So I poured some coconut cream as instructed and took some palusami, taro and coleslaw. So much for not wanting to eat.

First mouthful was orgasmic.  The fish was so fresh, and its fishy flavor together with the coconut milk and wild ferns and a bit of palusami was to die for.  It was a perfect combination of flavors.  I was so worried I would get cold sweat eating the boiled fish, but I was so wrong when everything was mixed together, the plethora of flavors was something else. The smokiness of the taro was wonderful.

I wish I had tried the chicken but I was still trying to be strong.  The Palusami was nothing words could describe.  It was just the leaves, salt and coconut cream, three ingredients and the flavors were out of this world. How I wished they could tin palusami like that.

I mean we have all these ingredients here in Malaysia, and I doubt we would have tried something like that simply because of the lack of flavors. My next feat. Make Palusami on a BBQ!

Dole with Duruka

Dole with Duruka

I also learn how to make Duruka.  Now I do not know the name here in Malaysia, but I ate it once with Hafiq at a vegetarian restaurant and the waiter said it was part of the sugarcane which I found odd because when I cut open my young sugarcane and nearly got killed from mum for doing such stupid things, I never found that part of the sugarcane.

Duruka - Now Now Looks can be deceiving

Duruka – Now Now Looks can be deceiving

So there we were at the market and I asked Angela what it was and so she bought it for Dole to prepare.  So there you have it, Duruka with coconut milk and salt.  For me, I would have made it into a vegetarian curry, even a Duruka varuvel would have been good because I feel the marrow like texture of the Duruka would have absorbed all the flavors of the spices and ingredients and still maintained its shape and it would have tasted really good. 

I think Duruka would also be wonderful cooked nonya style again because of its ability to absorb flavors without falling apart.  I must look for it here. 

Finally, I made Fried Noodles in Fiji for dinner one day. Bought Non Egg Noodles from RB Patel’s and cooked it with vegetables and remnants of Angela’s beef.  We even cooked in a wok, something Angela has never done before in her life.  We got a second hand seasoned wok from the flea market, from our favorite Japanese Restaurant owner Ohra.  Ohra (if that is his name) has retired and he was selling his wares and so of course the Asian in me spotted its worth and made Angela buy it.

My Noodles with too many ingredients.

My Noodles with too many ingredients.

 Now people often ask me why I never take scenic photos when I travel.  This is the reason. Because to me to be able to learn from people is much more valuable and priceless. Thank you Angela Birch and Dole, and also Aunty Sulu for the wonderful wonderful food.



A visit to a Fijian Market

On the second day I was there,  I followed Angela around and after dropping of Meretalai as school, we went to the market which was nearby.  So this is my first trip to a Fijian Market.  It was not very big, and the fact that it was the main market it was quite small by our standards.  One thing though, it was neat and clean. For one I am not the market kind of person. I’d shop at a supermarket any day.  After shocking episodes when I was a kid following mum to the market and wanting to throw up and all, it has always been something I do not look forward to.

My sister was even worst, she just dropped like a big fat rock overcome by the smell of the market and mum had a fright of her life so we were never allowed to go to the market again.  I believe this is not our fault at all but just the way the market system works here.

So here goes.  The first photo shows how vegetables are arranged in this market. Most cases these are the people who produce these fruits and vegetables themselves and so you see a mix of vegetables and fruits sold by the same person.  So in most cases again, these are very organically grown produce.  Notice too how the fruits and tomatoes and even the ginger is placed on little plates.  I thought this was a rather novel idea instead of having to rummage through all these produce and get our hands all messed up with fertilizers and stuff.

Some even have table cloth.

Most of the stall are run predominantly by Indians.  Notice how big the pak choy is? Even in the background just see how large the pumpkins are.  Most of these vegetables seem to be larger then what we get here in Malaysia.  And you can even get your newspapers if you want.  And yes they sell Sasa brooms (Lidi Brooms) too.

These next photos show how large the pumpkins are, and even the cabbages.  These large Pumpkins looks like the ones you find in the US. I did not get a chance to taste it.  But it would be difficult to finish even with a large family.

Funny I only noticed old ginger compared to the choices we have here.  Old ginger tends to be stronger in taste, and sharper and hotter.  I walked all around and found no young ginger.  I wonder if they know the uses of young ginger as sometimes what we take for granted, people from other countries have no idea a certain fruit or vegetable is edible.

Now this is Dalo or Taro or Tapioca, a very important food here in Fiji. Funnily enough, Angela did not give us any to eat. How strange? Because I am sure Aunty Ana would have given us some to eat.  Dalo is eaten even in Chinese restaurants as a starter.  Fijian Dalo tends to be of a different texture then the ones we get here.  It can be eaten with butter while hot.  It’s lovely!

More photos of varieties of Dalo and the one with the little girl was taken 2 seconds before she broke out in the loudest cry for all to hear.  I guess a model and a beauty queen she will never be this one, because of her fear of the camera flash.  She did spoil my photo taking moments.  I wanted to take the Dalo stem and stick it on her head then she would look like a big crying Dalo.

The last photo is Tahitian Chestnuts, which are boiled in salt water.  It has its own distinct  flavor, which Dan did not like very much. I ate the lot. It does resemble boiled ginger and if Angela did not pick it up ( the last packet too), I would have never known.

If you notice, I did not take and photos of the fish section. Well in Fiji the fish section in a separate section.  It’s a closed up area as they wanted to keep out the flies.

One step in on my second visit there, I nearly threw up and ran out for dear life.  I had one of my dreadful childhood moments.  The place reeked! Dan and Angela had no problem what so ever, I just was in there for 30 seconds and because totally nauseous. I did not understand their concept of closing off the area.  I could not even hold up my camera because I was overcome by the smell. I did not have time to look at the fish as I got teary eyed.

Maybe in my next visit to Fiji, I shall do it!