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 Best Vegan Eats in Suva

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Best Vegan Eats in Suva

Dal, bitter melon, bhindi, jackfruit, vegetable Manchurian

We’re back in the Bay! First impressions are that it’s cold, crowded, and there are just not enough sunlight hours to keep us going. However, everyday is getting a little easier and our focus is becoming clearer. We’re staying with our parents in Livermore and we’ve both started working in Oakland leaving us with a bit of a commute. This brings us to the challenge of balancing our work days to find time to cook healthy meals. For the past 2 weeks, we’ve been spoiling ourselves eating out at Ethiopian and Vietnamese restaurants. We even found some amazing vegan South Indian dosas in Berkeley that made us think of Fiji.

We feel empowered by making delicious food at home that both saves money and is generally healthier. However, there are a few select restaurants that we like to treat ourselves to from time to time. When we're staying in or around Suva, our go-to restaurant is Govinda Vegetarian Restaurant in Sports City.

Govinda

Govinda has a cafeteria-style setup that allows you to pick a large variety of dishes. Each dish is about $2FJD or less, allowing you to choose a large variety. Many of the curries are vegan, though some to have dairy, so be sure to ask.

Dal, bitter melon, bhindi, jackfruit, Eggplant, vegetable Manchurian

We love that the selection varies from day to day, and we've never left feeling hungry or disappointed. Our favorites include:

Dal soup- They offer two types of dal lentil soups; a south Indian dal that is thick and savory, and a Gujarati dal that has complex sweet/sour taste we can’t get enough of.

Dosa with coconut chutney- On Thursdays and Fridays, Govinda offers made-to-order dosas. A dosa is a South Indian rice and lentil crepe that is filled with curry (potato/aloo) and served with an amazing spiced coconut chutney. Honestly we can’t get enough of these! A dosa can easily be split between two people and is served with dal.

Dosa

Jackfruit curry – We had jackfruit curry at our wedding because we absolutely love it. We laughed at how many people asked us if it was pulled pork or chicken; it's just a surprising texture for a fruit. The jackfruit curry at Govinda does not disappoint.

Okra/Bhindi curry – I could enjoy okra prepared just about any (vegan) way. I love the simple, bhindi curry offered at Govinda.

Eggplant/Baingnan curry – They offer a few different baignan curries at Govinda, and all are delicious.

Bitter melon/Karela curry – Bitter melon (bitter gourd) was new for both of us, and we found it to be, well….bitter. But in the sense that bitter is a necessary taste and balances and complements the sweetness of the dal or the tamarind chutney. It’s also highly nutritious.

Curry

Pumpkin curry – We feel that pumpkin is the most undervalued vegetable in the States, and we love the variety of dishes that feature pumpkin in Fiji. Govinda makes a simple pumpkin curry that hits the spot.

Chana Masala- A classic chickpea curry with potato. It can serve as a main to balance the lighter, greener curries.

Spinach Bhaji – We can’t resist ordering this one when we see that a fresh batch has just come out. The fresher or hotter this is, the better it tastes.

Green Bean Curry- A really simply, yet tasty bean curry.

Vegetable Manchurian - This Indian Chinese dish is hard to describe. It features grated cabbage and carrot in a textured ball- imagine sweet/sour flavor and a crumbly texture- yum!

Jack preparing his plate

And don’t forget to order:

Roti- Their roti is superb- round, soft, and breaks apart perfectly to scoop up the curry.

Samosas- I tried really hard to not eat too many samosas in Fiji, just in an effort to limit fried floury foods. But on the rare occasion I did eat a Govinda’s samosa, I enjoyed every bite.

Tamarind Chutney- A nice sweet chutney that brings out the flavor in everything.

Roti, salad and tamarind chutney

We tend to eat a lot and $20FJD gets the both of us a filling lunch. The lunch rush brings in a diverse group including USP students and local professionals. The earlier you can make it for lunch, the better, as the variety narrows throughout the afternoon. The ownership and staff are amazing and make visits here even more enjoyable. They even fill large to-go orders if you ever have an event to cater in Suva.

So next time you’re in Suva, go to Govinda- if we’re in town, we’ll probably see you there!

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Fiji Kumquat Juice

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Fiji Kumquat Juice

Kumquats

On our parents’ property in Naitasiri, there are many kumquat trees. They make use of the beautiful fruit by processing them into a juice. kumquat tree

Kumquats are a citrus fruit, high in Vitamin C. The fruit is packed with vitamins and minerals, including those that weed out carcinogens and prevent cancer. Unlike other citrus fruits, kumquats are usually eaten whole, peel and all. The peel is packed with essential oils, anti-oxidants and fiber.

Bags of kumquats

Kumquats have been filling the trees since we’ve been here; so we’ve been collecting them on our walks (usually 4-5 bags at a time) and making the juice ourselves.

Kumquats

Processing Kumquats

After picking the kumquats, we wash them all. Then we cut them in half to make them easier to process. We put them in the food processor, skin and all, and they make a thick pulpy liquid. We then strain that using mesh, putting the pulp aside to save for later. We transfer the strained juice concentrate into bottles. Our 4-5 bags of kumquats make about 6 liters of juice, and a comparable amount of pulp. We store the pulp in the refrigerator, and the juice bottles in the freezer until we’re ready to drink them.

Jack processing kumquats

To make our daily kumquat juice, we use about 1/4 cup of the concentrate and ¾ cup of water. We then sweeten it with the liquid sweetener of choice- either1 tsp of honey, maple syrup, or coconut nectar.

kumquat juice

 

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Charlot's Black Christ Mural in Ra

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Charlot's Black Christ Mural in Ra

Jean Charlot mural

When you picture beautiful frescoes in historic cathedrals your mind probably wanders to a European city, and not Fiji. However, we've been aiming to see Jean Charlot's mural of the Black Christ in the Ra District of Fiji for some time now. On our way back from Nadi last week, we made it happen! Along King's Road in Naiserelagi village in Ra, there is a sign for St. Francis Xavier's Catholic Mission. Following the sign towards an uphill 5-minute drive leads directly to the Church that is home to the beautiful artwork. We knew right away that this was the right church, based on the descriptions we'd heard. No other cars or people were around; just yaqona (kava) lying to dry in the sun out front.

St. Francis Xavier's Catholic Mission Catherdral

The cathedral was open, so we removed our shoes and let ourselves in to see the frescoes we'd been eagerly anticipating. The cathedral itself is built in the same manner as the Catholic church on Taveuni- a stairway entrance leading to high vaulted ceilings with stained glass windows and ibe (ih-mbay; Fijian woven mats) covering the floors.

Stained glass windowsWoven mats covering the floor

The set of Jean Charlot's three frescoes was everything we'd hoped for and more. The Black Christ and Worshippers mural is the center piece over, measuring ten feet by thirty feet; and to either side there are ten by twelve panels; one of St. Joseph's Workshop and the other of The Annunciation.

Black Christ and Worshippers

St. Joseph's Worshop

The Annunciation

These pieces were painted in the early 1960s, and his style reminds us of the work of muralists Diego Rivera, Hale Woodruff and Thomas Hart Benton. We are so inspired by the multicultural aspects and empowering nature of the centerpiece; looking closely you will notice Fijian, and Fijian-Indian cultural traditions seamlessly integrated into the mural. Traditional offerings are being made on either side of the Christ figure.

Black Christ detailBlack Christ detailBlack Christ detailBlack Christ detailBlack Christ detail

Jean Charlot has painted murals throughout Mexico and in Hawaii. As we head back to the States- we'll make a serious effort to view more of his work in the region.

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Best Place to Eat on the Coral Coast

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Best Place to Eat on the Coral Coast

EcoCafe menu
Our first (and second!) meal for the new year was at EcoCafe on the Coral Coast, just past Votua village.  We stayed at the Beachouse for New Years, so it was easy access for us to visit for lunch.
EcoCafe sign
Eco Cafe is a family operation run by Degei and Fabianna. The couple has brilliantly blended his Fijian and her Italian traditions of food and beverage. The setup is an open-air building made from bamboo thatching and natural materials.
cafe owners, Degei and Fabianna
EcoCafe
EcoCafe
The cafe sits on a beautiful beach, so while waiting for our food, we walked down to the water and watched the kids take their surfboards out.
Surfing
EcoCafe

We love the fact that they do not offer or allow soft drinks in their restaurant; this is a rarity in Fiji. Instead, they make to order a variety of fresh fruit juices, coffee and teas. Our favorite was the ginger and lemongrass tea. We also really enjoyed the lemon juice and mixed fruit juice.

Tea and fresh fruit

Their Italian menu includes wood fired pizzas and pastas, and their Fijian menu has a variety which includes  a vegetarian section. They require advance notice on all Fijian dishes, as all of their ingredients are fresh, including the coconut milk which takes a bit of time and work. We hope they continue to offer the Fijian menu as it's a big part of what makes this place so special.
IMG_5170
EcoCafe menu
We ordered the Steak Baignani (eggplant) in miti (coconut milk with onions, tomatoes and chili) and Ota (Fijian wild fern) in miti along with a variety of root crops including dalo, tivoli, and kumala. All of the food was beautifully presented and absolutely delicious.
Steak Baingani and Ota Steak Baingani
The family lives on the property, and the restaurant is open from 11am-9pm everyday except Wednesdays.  EcoCafe
We have been driving between Nadi and Suva a bit lately, and we have found this to be a great place to stop in for tea or coffee and a beautiful beach view to break up our trip. This is such an inspiring place and we would love to see more like it in Fiji!

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Garden of the Sleeping Giant

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Garden of the Sleeping Giant

Orchid

We haven’t been online much recently as we’ve been travelling for birthday celebrations and holiday preparations. Also, we’ve had varying internet access, so we’ve been making most of our time unplugged. Garden of the Sleeping Giant

For my birthday weekend, we took a road-trip around Viti Levu. We met up with family in the West and explored places that were new to both of us. One of the highlights of our time in the West was the Garden of the Sleeping Giant. It’s located just 4 miles north of Nadi International Airport on Wailoko Road.

Jack

The Garden is in a valley surrounded by the mountain feature called “the Sleeping Giant.” Upon entering, we were free to wander through the colorful orchids, a lilly pond, and native flowers and rainforest.

Light

Orchid

We took our time walking through the garden, as there was so much to see. We found it all to be very family friendly; our 1-year old niece and 2-year old nephew had a great time.

Nephew the photographer

Orchid

Orchid

We went in the morning, and it was quite hot, so we wouldn’t recommend going in the afternoon this time of year. We reckon this would be a great place to take a book and read after an early morning stroll through the gardens; and it would also be a spectacular wedding venue!

Orchid

Orchid

Pineapple

In the visitor area, there are beautiful lithographs by French artist, Jean Chalot. This was exciting for us, as we have been planning a trip to a church where he’s painted a series of frescoes including a monumental Black Christ.

Jean Chalot print

The entry fee is $16 FJD per adult; we found it to be worth it as the grounds are very well maintained. Read more about the garden and its history on Fiji’s tourism website.

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Fiji Pop Up Shop in Suva

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Fiji Pop Up Shop in Suva

POPUP

Last night, we participated in the first Fiji Pop Up Shop in Suva at Distill. It was our first live paint in Fiji. The "pop up shop" concept is a shopping experience that pops up in different locations where new or pre-loved items of clothing, accessories and art are sold. It came together nicely. Our sister in law worked out the concept and details, and Jack designed the flyers for the event. POPUP

Last night's event featured designer label clothing by  two time award winning local designer, Andrew Powell, and new as well as pre-loved pieces handpicked by Andrew.  Our prints and handmade earrings were available for purchase. 

Designer clothing by Andrew Powell

Art Prints and shoesHandmade earrings

Preloved Jewelry

Distill Pop Up Shop Pop Up Shopping

During the event , we collaborated on a live art piece. We had a great time bringing this new happening to Fiji.

Live Painting

Live Paint Distill

Special thanks to Loren Eastgate, Andrew Powell, Jodi Chang and all of our friends and family that came out and supported the event! If you are based in Suva, stay tuned as there will be more Pop Up Shops in the future. Our earrings and prints along with some preloved jewelry are available for purchase at Distill near Flagstaff for the next few weeks.

Fiji Tapa Earrings

Woman Earrings Handmade Earring

 

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Kula Eco Park

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Kula Eco Park

Musk Parrot

We visited Kula Eco Park with our parents last week. Kula Eco Park is named for Fiji’s brightly colored rainforest bird also known as the Collared Lory, and it focuses on the preservation and protection of Fiji’s wildlife. The 28-acre park is located in the Sigatoka area on Viti Levu, between Nadi and Suva. Kula Eco Park Kula birdsThey offer self-guided tours daily, and guided tours are available with advanced booking. We enjoyed taking our time with the self-guided option through the picturesque coastal forest. The admission cost of $30 FJD per person is the sole source of funding for the park, and it also allows free environmental education for visiting school children.

Kula Eco Park is the only captive breeding facility in Fiji for endangered indigenous species. They have focused on breeding Fiji's Peregrine Falcon, Fiji's Yadua Taba Crested Iguana, Fiji's Ground Frog, and Fiji's newly discovered Monoriki Crested Iguana. Their program aims to breed and release healthy populations back into their natural environment.

Jack with the Fijian Crested Iguana

Kula Eco Park also has a Wild Rescue Rehabilitation Program, through which they house injured, sick, orphaned, or smuggled animals, including those who cannot be released back to the wild.

Fiji Hawk

When we visited, there were staff members who showed and provided information on the Fijian Crested iguanas and Pacific boas. They explained the Fijian Crested Iguana lays her eggs and then leaves them unguarded in the forest soil for 7 to 9 months, opening them up to introduced predators. At Kula Bird Park, they have been successfully breeding the iguanas to release them on sanctuary islands.

Alise with the Pacific Boa

Fiji’s natural balance has been upset by a number of introduced species. The mongoose was introduced to Fiji to control the non-native rats. However, with no natural predators, the mongooses have taken over Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, causing the extinction or severe decline of native ground-nesting birds and reptile populations. The Cane Toad was introduced to manage insects, and it can now be found in large populations throughout the Fiji islands.

Jack and Pacific Boa

The park features cockatoos, hawks, falcons, and fruit bats. The fruit bat, also called the flying fox, is only indigenous terrestial mammal in Fiji, and it is one of our personal favorites. While at the park, we learned that unlike insect bats, they rely on their sense of smell and excellent vision. Our perspective on bats completely changed after we looked after an orphaned baby bat on Taveuni. He was like a flying puppy- incredibly social and affectionate. The bats Kula Eco park are older, but very social and interested in meeting everyone who passes by.

Joey, our flying fox friend from Taveuni

The musk parrots, kula birds and a few others are in large enclosures that visitors can walk through. They also have a marine area of soft coral and reef fish. They have a couple of Hawksbill Sea Turtles who will be released into the wild in the near future.

Fijian Musk Parrot

Hawksbill Sea Turtle

Throughout the park, there is signage with information on the plants and animals. Many signs tell how the individual animals came to Kula and their plans for release into their natural environment. Kula Eco Park has also created a traditional medicine display based on the information in Dr. M A Weiner, Ph.D’s book “Secrets of Fijian Medicine.” They have 12 native plants on display, with plaques identifying their medicinal uses.

Soft CoralReef fish

Cicada

We highly recommend visiting Kula Eco Park and supporting their efforts. The park is open from 10am to 4:30pm 7 days a week, and is only closed on Christmas Day and New Years Day. Read more about the park on their website or on Fiji's tourism website.

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