The cheapest way to eat in Fiji is from the snack stalls that can be found at all major centres close to bus stations and the municipal markets. They sell Fiji Indian snacks. Fiji Indians have their own cuisine – different from that of cuisine found in India, but heavily influenced by it.
Who Are Fiji’s Sweet Sellers?
For the uninitiated, just under half of the population of Fiji is of Indian descent, many of them descendants of indentured labourers who were sent to Fiji to farm sugar cane. There are also others of Indian descent who later migrated to Fiji to work as merchants and in other more specialized professions.
For those of you who have visited Georgetown in Malaysia, you will feel a very similar fusion Indian presence in the cuisine and you will recognize many of the snacks on offer in Fiji’s sweet stands.
How Do The Sweet Stands Work?
When it comes to the lose deep fried snacks like bhuja, just tell them how much you want. Start at around 50 cents and see how much you get. Be aware that you will get larger servings of certain things than others, for example the salted peanuts are always a little more expensive than other options so you will get a little less of them by comparison. When it comes to other snacks like the savoury patties, just point and ask and they will often tell you an individual price, or something like 3 for 30 cents or 5 for a dollar for example.
The snacks sold in these mobile stalls tend to be divided into: sweet and savoury, although everything is generally referred to as ‘sweets’, hence the name Sweet Seller.
There tend to be soft and hard snacks within both savoury and sweet options and some fried snacks are made fresh daily while others like bhuja are designed to be made in bulk and sold gradually over time.
Savoury Snacks You Can Buy From Fiji’s Sweet Sellers
You can be sure you will always find a selection of deep fried and salted pulses. If you are not familiar with these sort of snacks they are the Indian equivalent of salted peanuts – where the peanuts are swapped out for a variety of different legumes like split peas, blue peas, puffed rice and chickpeas.
Often salt and garlic is the only flavouring added, but many times the sellers will also sell extra spicy salted peas made hot with the addition of plenty of chilli powder. These sorts of snacks are very crunchy, so if you have a bridge or other work done on your teeth you might want to give these a miss.
Alternatively, you can opt for a similar snack often known as ‘Seo‘ in Fiji which follows the same principle but uses deep fried legume flour to make the crunchy snacks instead of the whole legumes. This option is worlds easier on the teeth.
There are other savoury snacks that tend to be made daily. These include a variety of snacks including Bhajia (similar to pakora) which is pea flour and greens made into a spicy batter and fried.
Murku is a crunchy pea based snack heavily flavoured with ajwain (carom seeds) while Bara is ground split peas mixed with spices and deep fried into patties. Then there is Seina – a deep fried snack of rolled up colocassia leaves (taro leaves) slathered in a paste of legumes; one of my all time favourites!
Sweet Snacks You Can Buy From Fiji’s Sweet Sellers
There is a lot more limitation in the sweet snacks for vegans. Most of the sweet snacks are made using clarified butter (ghee), milk and also non-vegan food colouring (like jalebi which can be made without food colouring, but unfortunately rarely is). However, there are a few safe options:
Coconut sweet is usually made of just sugar and coconut with maybe a little cardamom added occasionally. This is your best option for sweet snacks. It is a little limited, but very sugary and sure to satisfy a sweet tooth.
How To Choose Your Sweet Seller
Occasionally you will find lone sweet sellers, but generally they come in groups. Check which stall seems popular among the locals, looks the cleanest and has the freshest-looking snacks. Of course, it can be hard to tell, but do your best and don’t just buy from the first sweet seller you come upon.
Some Occasional Treats
Not surprisingly, some snacks are a fixture of these stands while others are rarely seen. Some of those that are worth keeping an eye out for include:
This is made from the same peas that the deep fried pea snack is made from (blue peas) and is usually called by the misnomer ‘soft bean’. However, instead of deep frying the peas they are cooked like a very simple curry and flavoured with curry leaves and a few simple spices which makes for a really mellow and healthy pea snack.
Fried peanuts usually flavoured with chilli and salt and sometimes garlic. This is usually charged at a higher price compared to the salted legumes.
Don’t Forget the Tamarind Chutney…
There is a wonderful addition to the savoury options that most sweet sellers offer – tamarind chutney. Tamarind Chutney is a sweet fruity sauce flavoured with spices and used to give contrast and flavour to the deep fried snacks.
The tamarind chutney you find in sweet stalls is a much thinner variety but still works wonders. You may have to ask for it specifically as the sweet seller may not mention the option to add it. The tamarind chutney is always vegan – made only with tamarind, sugar, salt, water, oil and spices and sometimes a little chilli.
Are you a fan of street food and snacks sellers around the world? Let us know your experience of buying from roadside stalls during your travels.