14 Feb / Would You Like To Try My Prawn – Romance in Fiji !
So what is a romantic dinner to you? Going out to your favorite Chinese restaurant, dinner under the stars, or maybe a candlelit dinner for two? Or do you like get fancy and stay at an expensive five star resort and have a chef cook for you? Valentine’s Day dinner for a chef isn’t as romantic because they spend most of the special night cooking over a hot stove for someone else! And what about foods do you like to eat to entice your partner to be a little more amorous tonight. Throughout history, food historians have written stories of certain foods activating certain chemicals in the body that trigger those sexy feelings. Asparagus, dark chocolate, strawberries, champagne, caviar, lobster and oysters – the aphrodisiac foods.
In overseas restaurants, the most expected thing to order for a romantic dinner is rock oysters – raw. They grow in oyster farms of estuary lakes with brackish water and where ocean meets river. They are far from the delicious, semi crunchy, burst of fresh seawater pearl oysters at Justin Hunter’s J. Hunter Pearl farm in Savusavu. At best, rock oysters have the texture of slimy, soft Fijian kai clams, but many non-oyster lovers think that they feel like swallowing a ball of saliva! Raw rock oysters are just as tasty with a squeeze of lemon and freshly cracked black pepper, or dipped in a spicy Tabasco-infused cocktail sauce, but they are an acquired taste!
In Fiji, it seems that one of the most joked about sexy foods would have to be prawns. “Would you like to try my prawn?” I often hear from local men who like to tease. There is so much wrong, yet amusing, with associating the crustacean with a male body part. Leave it up to a Fijian man to think like that but it is the same reason why asparagus and bananas are known as aphrodisiac foods; they’re phallic symbols. Some regions of Fiji have the huge sea prawns, and if you’re ever down in Suva, visit the Tiko’s floating restaurant to experience this giant, firm and crunchy critter. Owner Anthony Harm-Naam is on a daily hunt to put these morsels onto his evening menu, which his chef serves open-grilled with garlic butter or in a crunchy Panko crumb. Whether you like them BBQ’d, in coconut milk, wok-tossed with chilli, lime and coriander, or just plain boiled, prawns and seafood in general are always at the top of the list of a romantic dinner. I always wondered why local women always order prawns when dining out in Fiji. From the river or the sea, ladies?
Chocolate has been associated with romance since it was first discovered in the 16th century, when botanists discovered the cacao plant and its bitter sweet but highly prized fruit seeds. The ancient Amazon, Aztec and Mayan people used cacao beans as offerings to the gods and served cocoa drinks during sacred ceremony. It was commonly drunk warm, like a cup of tea, coffee, or a bilo of warm yagona (kava). Many Fijian men may agree that drinking just the right amount of kava can certainly put him into the right mood, but drink too much and get too grog-doped, then nothing, including his legs, are getting up! Spices like nutmeg and cinnamon, as well as milk and sugar were later added to chocolate drinks to make them more tasty and exotic. But it wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century that the chocolate bar was created by British inventor, John Cadbury. The age of machines and presses begun, and with that, the ability to squeeze precious butter from the cacao seeds and with emulsification process turn it into solid chocolate. Dark bittersweet chocolate contains both a sedative which relaxes and lowers inhibitions, and a stimulant to increase brain activity and the desire for physical contact. Fiji’s Willy Wonka, is Japanese engineer Tomohito Zukoshi, who discovered how to make chocolate in Savusavu more than 5 years ago as a struggling immigrant. Today, his Adi Chocolate company is producing some of the best rainforest dark chocolate of anywhere in the world, and can be purchased on Fiji Airways planes, resorts and tourist stores, including a kava-infused version that should be classed as a supercharged aphrodisiac food because it contains both yagona and cacoa.
The exclusivity, richness and expense of lobster and caviar, or fish eggs, have always classed these two foods as romantic ‘must-have’ foods when planning a romantic dinner. The painted rock lobsters of Fiji have become scarcer of recent years due to an increase in tourism and demand for this crustacean. What was once sold for $10 per kilo is now fetching more than $30, and sometimes over $50 a kilo. A cheap, but just as delicious alternative, is the slipper lobster, an often overlooked and ugly relation of its prized brother and is called a Moreton Bay bug in Australia. Savusavu is again the home to this aphrodisiac seafood, with its tail tasting sweeter and has a crunchier texture than many of the brown and green lobster. They delicious plain boiled but are heaven when grilled with an infused butter over a BBQ; total gluttony.
Another sexy food that the Chinese have prized for thousands of years, and was at the centre of trade during the 19th century, is beche-de-mer. Like oysters are to the Europeans, the sea cucumber has a reputation for strengthening a man’s virility. Turning a man’s prowess from a six-shooter into a machine gun is why sea cucumber is served at Chinese weddings and Lunar New Year banquets – its good for making babies! The sea slug has a neutral flavour but its porous texture absorbs sauces well and is often used in Chinese claypot stews or wok-tossed with garlic, oysters sauce and rice wine. Our new mainland Chinese visitors, who are in Fiji for the Year of the Horse celebrations this month, can’t believe that the locals don’t eat it or appreciate it. Large sundried slugs can fetch hundreds of dollars each and provides Fiji with a highly prized aqua cultural product to export to the biggest consumers of sea cucumber.
So the next time your partner doesn’t feel like being so close on a romantic night, maybe they need a little more of the right foods to switch on their light!