South Pacific desserts are heavily influenced by the abundance of exotic tropical fruits and fresh coconut, plants spread thousands of years ago throughout the region by the first settlers, the Lapita people. One traditional Fijian dessert is called Vudi Vakasoso (“plantains cooked in coconut”). At its most simplest, plantains are often stuffed with freshly grated coconut and wrapped in banana leaf with sweetened coconut milk. This parcel is then placed on the hot stones of the lovo earth oven, covered and baked. Bananas and coconut are a match made in heaven, and this dessert is just sublime when enjoyed with a good vanilla ice cream!
On a culinary mission to the Fine Food Melbourne trade show in 2018, I challenged my young assistant, Ravinesh Prasad (Marriott Fiji) to do a variation of this classic South Pacific dessert. Learning to incorporate more of his Indian heritage in his cooking, Ravi decided to add some tempered fennel and cardamom seeds, and fresh basil and mint to his creation. The floral and spices, along with Fiji-made dark rum, elevated this sweet dish to a whole new level, and reminded me of the potential of Fijian cuisine in the future.