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.
And 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.
Her 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
2) Chicken cooked in the Lovo
Palusami – to die for Roro leaves cooked in coconut milk in the Lovo
4) Taro cooked in the Lovo
5) Boiled Fish with Wild Ferns (Sayur Paku) served with coconut cream
6) A Coleslaw
7) A Garden Salad with CHILLIES
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!
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.
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.
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.