“Fijian Indian culture and traditions have evolved from the early days of [laboring] in the British-backed sugar industry. This includes the Indian cuisine, which has developed into a deliciously unique blend of traditional spices, fresh local ingredients and a hint of Pacific [flavors]. If you like Indian cuisine (and who doesn’t!), you’ll love the [flavors] of Fijian Indian dishes.”

quote from www.airnewzealand.co.nz


NOTE: Recipe includes vegan and gluten-free options

Many Fijian dishes include traditional and Indian influences

 

In 2019, my husband and I travelled to Fiji, and we fell in love. The beauty, the unique mixture of cultures, the fauna of the islands and the sea life in the ocean was equally mesmerizing and inspiring. But more so, the food was incredible! Because we live on Oahu, and work at the Polynesian Cultural Center we have had many opportunities to try different Polynesian cuisines and we have enjoyed them greatly. But we discovered that while restaurant food is great, it misses the magnificence of home cooked meals based on what is, and isn’t, available at the moment. Recipes passed down from parent to child. Meals which that child will long for when they have a house of their own. “No one can cook like my Mom”, they will say. “Nothing will ever compare, forever more.”

photo of woman making roti, an Indian flat bread popular in Fiji

My first experience making Roti in a small village on the island of Tavenui, Fiji.

That’s the kind of food we had in Fiji. Seafood, chicken, pork, beef, and vegetables. Sometimes it was spicy, and other times bland. None of that mattered, because absolutely everything was delicious. 

The last week in Fiji we actually went to stay with a family on a remote island. We lived in their humble home, helped with chores, explored the back roads, and because the wife was the head chef at a local resort, I was given the opportunity to learn from a master. My favorite evening meal was when we caught a wild chicken, made it into a spicy curry and folded it inside freshly prepared roti.

I’m very proud to share this beautiful dish with you – a delicious fusion of India and Fiji.

Special thanks to Rosie Sidal Rawlins for her guidance and support. Your version is the best, always and forever.

 

 


Fijian Curry wrapped in fresh Roti

Prep Time 1 hour 15 minutes 

Cook Time 10 minutes 

Servings4 

Roti Recipe 


Ingredients

4 cups boiling water  

4 cups flour 

6 Tablespoons butter or coconut oil 

Instructions

  1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. 
  2. Place 4 cups of flour in a large mixing bowl. 
  3. Slowly add boiling water over flour while mixing occasionally with a wooden spoon.  
  4. Knead the dough by hand until it becomes smooth. Roll into two long pillow-like shapes.  
  5. Add butter or coconut oil to the dough and continue kneading until thoroughly mixed. 
  6. Let it rest, covered with a towel, for 1 hour. 

    Ball of simple dough ready to form into flat rounds

    Form the dough into a ball and prepare to knead

  7. Pinch off and roll dough into balls a little bit bigger than a golf ball. 
  8. Sprinkle a light layer of flour on a clean surface (i.e., large smooth cutting board or a 12” round area on your countertop covered in parchment paper.  
  9. Take one ball of dough and roll it out in a round circle until it’s very flat. Sprinkle some flour lightly across the top of the top of the dough, flip it and sprinkle more to the other side while you continue rolling.  
  10. Each roti should end up around 8-10 inches in diameter. 

    Photo of rolled out dough and rolling pin

    Be sure that your roti is evenly pressed throughout and as thin as possible.

  11. Add a tsp of coconut oil to your flat skillet (called a hot tawa or roti pan in Fiji) and heat to medium/medium high (must be evenly hot, but not high enough to burn.  
  12. Place the rolled-out roti on the pan. Flip periodically until your roti starts to balloon. 
  13. Cook until slightly brown around the edges and neither doughy nor crisp. Flip it onto a round, oven safe platter and cover with a damp towel (raw muslin or cotton is best) and place in a 170o oven to keep warm. As you finish cooking the next roti, place it on top on the growing pile in the oven and recover with the towel. 

 

NOTE: If you would like to have some extra roti, you can freeze the dough, rolled into thin rounds and separated by squares of wax or parchment paper and cook it later without thawing, just as directed above. If already cooked before freezing, warm it up on low heat on top of the stove for 10 – 15 seconds each.  

Chicken curry on a roti ready to roll

Add just enough curry to cover the center, leaving about two inches on each side for roing

Curry Filling


Ingredients: Chicken filling version

3 lb boneless and skinless chicken breast or thighs, cut into 1-inch strips  

Cooking oil (I prefer coconut oil) 

1 tsp fennel seeds (dry roast and ground into fine powder) 

½ onion, chopped 

1 tsp cumin seeds 

1 tsp mustard seeds 

1 cinnamon stick 

½ tsp turmeric  

1 tbsp curry powder (made of milder Indian spices) -or- masala (made from more pungent Indian spices) 

1 – 2 minced garlic cloves 

1 tsp minced ginger, 

Minced chili pepper (to taste based on amount and heat) 

1 – 1 ½ c. peeled and chopped potatoes (can be sweet potatoes or white) 

¼ c. chopped cilantro 

 

Instructions:

  1. Using a small non-stick fry pan on low heat, roast your fennel seeds until you get a nice brown color. Place to the side (off of heat, so it does not burn) 
  2. Place a large pan on medium heat. Add 2 tbsp oil and heat for 30 seconds. 
  3. Add onions and stir for one minute.   
  4. Add cumin, mustard seeds and cinnamon sticks to the onions and continue cooking with the lid on for 2 minutes or until onion is translucent. 
  5. When onions are light brown, add the turmeric and curry / masala and cook for 1 minute. Then add minced garlic, ginger and chili peppers to taste.  
  6. Stir well and then add chicken. 
  7. Cover the pot and cook for 15 -20 minutes on medium, stirring twice during cooking. During this process, the chicken should release its liquid. There should be no need to add water. 
  8. Add potatoes and cover with a lid 
  9. Once mixture begins to boil, lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are cooked. 
  10. Turn the heat off and season with salt. 
  11. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro leaves. 
  12. Remove cinnamon stick and toss.

 

Photograph of chicken curry and prepared roti

It’s time to put it all together.

Once the curry filling is ready, bring the roti out on a hot pad next to your working surface. Take one roti. Place approximately ½ – ¾ cup of prepared curry in a line along the middle of the flat roti. Take and fold the 1/3 of the roti over the curry from the bottom, then fold each side approximately 3” over at each end. Now fold the filled roti from the top (with the folded sides up), like a burrito. Place completed roti onto a square of aluminum foil and wrap tightly. 

NOTE: These individually filled roti freeze beautifully. Simply thaw thoroughly and then warm for a moment in the microwave.

 

Alternative Ingredients: Vegan filling version 

display of alternate ingredients for chicken or vegetarian roti including onions, celery, sweet peppers, cilantro, and crushed and diced ginger

A good curry reflects your tastes. If you like it sweet, add honey. If you like it spicy, throw in jalapeños. For those looking for vegan, here are some ideas: Onions, celery, sweet pepper, .

 

Note: For vegan rotis, simply use coconut oil instead of butter (which I actually think tastes better!) Additionally, I have successfully made a gluten-free with almond flour. My granddaughter was thrilled with the results.

Omit chicken. Instead combine any of the following finely chopped vegetables – for a total of 3 cups: 

  • Carrots 
  • Celery 
  • Chopped and dry grilled mushrooms 
  • Broccoli 
  • Cauliflower  
  • Green, yellow or red peppers 

Other ingredients (add during last 5 minutes of cooking): 

  • Cooked jasmine or brown rice
  • Canned beans
  • Spinach  
  • Tomatoes 

If the combination of spices and ingredients is so thick it is difficult to stir, you will need to add some water. Start with ½ cup, and if needed, add a quarter cup more water at a time. You want the curry to thicken (the potatoes help with that), so don’t over-estimate how much you need.  

Optional: Serve with hot sauce or Sambal Oelek (found in Asian market or international food section).

rectangle acacia wood plate with five Fiji chicken curry wrapped in roti sitting atop a hot pad saying aloha and a wooden table

Easy to grab and go, or tasty enough for a sit down meal

Nina Jones, a mainland gal from way back, is now a transplanted Islander. With her husband of 44 years, she has lived in Laie since serving a mission at the Polynesian Cultural Center from 2014 – 2016. She now serves as the blog manager for the Center. Her blogs focus on the Polynesian history, beliefs, practices and – as an added bonus – delicious food! To her, Polynesia is not just a place to visit, it is a way to live and she is very honored to be able to be a part of their amazing world.

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