While taking an AWESOME cruise up to the North Shore yesterday, I stopped by Fiji Market & Curry Shop in Kahuku to sample what everyone on Yelp’s been raving about, being of course their curry.
Fiji Market is located behind the gas station at the old Kahuku Sugar Mill, being just a driveway north of where Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck is now permanently situated. Fiji Market shares the same old warehouse space that oddly also includes a very small Kaiser Permanente clinic literally right next door.
As the sign says, Fiji Market specializes in South Pacific Island groceries, with most of its products imported from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Samoa, along with some from India.
The owners are the Tikaram family (Indian name), who are originally from Fiji. Shown above is Rajeev Singh behind the checkout counter, son of Mr. Tikaram, seated to the left. Mrs. Tikaram (Rajeev’s mom) runs the Curry kitchen in back, whom all the recipes and cooking lovingly comes from.
So I asked Rajeev (shown above) what’s the deal with Fiji and Indian cuisine. He said basically in a nutshell, people of India are to Fiji as the Flipinos are to Hawaii, when way back in the day, the British brought Indian men to work on the sugarcane plantations in Fiji. Long story short, most of the those Indian men working on the plantations never left Fiji, and ended up marrying the local Fijian women, and the rest is history.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the imported grocery products on the shelves at Fiji Market…
Like Hawaii folks are with SPAM and Vienna Sausage, South Pacific Islanders sure love their canned meats, as was indicative of almost an entire side of one aisle dedicated to the genre…
Now that Ox & Palm SITA “Camp Luncheon Meat” had me very curious, which Rajeev told me is the South Pacific Islanders’ version of SPAM, saying it tastes just like SPAM, albeit in a round can form instead of rectangle. Which is hard to believe if you read the main ingredients that’s in it, which says has Mutton, Beef Lips and Beef Tongue.
OK, whatever. If Rajeev says SITA tastes just like SPAM, I’m taking him up on that and going to try make a SITA Musubii! Stay tuned!
A Fijian Tanoa is what they traditionally use to make Kava, which is a big deal there.
Macy’s may have 100 different models of juicers and blenders, but they ain’t got no coconut graters like this! lol
OK, let’s head on towards the back to the famous Curry Shop…
Why all these Yelp folks even were “ono” for curry while on the North Shore is kinda’ bizarre, as, had it not been that trend I’ve heard about, NEVER would I have thought to myself, “Man, the beach was so nice out here today, a good bowl of curry sure would hit the spot right about now!” But I’ll bite.
Again, you’ll find the curry shop straight towards the back as you walk in this small grocery store.
Available at the curry shop counter is a condiment station where you serve your own little plastic cups of Mint Sauce, Tamarind Sauce, Pickled Carrots and Hot Peppers (peppers need to go inside your plate container).
In the front at the checkout counter as you walk in is a display with a variety of New Zealand style Meat Pies with various fillings as you see there labeled. These actually aren’t made by Fiji Market, but made by Aunty Devi’s Meat Pies, originally from New Zealand, now made in the US.. You can buy them hot and ready to eat from this display, or they also sell them frozen and ready-to-bake for the same price….
As you see in the warmer display, they also sell their own house-made Samosas, which we’ll go into detail and sample shortly.
After about a 1½ hour drive from Kahuku to my place in Waiks, and some spillage occurring, here we have a Beef Curry Plate and Chicken Curry Plate. What I didn’t read carefully is that the Roti flat bread was one of the starch options, where I swear on Yelp folks said that was included with every plate.
I mistakenly ordered rice when actually all I wanted was the Roti Bread. Thankfully Rajeev thought I was a super cool dude, so he hooked me up with a Roti after-the-fact, no extra charge. Mahalo! He also threw in a complimentary Mango Chutney, which is normally 50 cents each. Kewl!
Shown above is the Pickled Carrots, Mint Sauce, Tamarind Sauce and Mango Chutney, which would prove to be KEY elements that take this curry from pretty normal to, DANG, now this ROCKS!
The Mint Sauce is very thin and somewhat watery, with no acidic element to it. Simply mint leaves put in a food processor with water is what it tastes like to me, and it works!
While I didn’t ask, I’m guessing the Tamarind Sauce is from one of the products they sell on the shelf, tasting kinda’ like Tony Roma’s Original Sauce, believe it or not, having a mild sweet ‘n sour thing going on.
The Pickled Carrots are very plain, tasting pretty much like raw carrots, except preserved. It’s not acidic nor sweet, as say Vietnamese Do Chua. Like the mint sauce, its simplicity is what helps it compliment their curry vs. totally change the direction of it.
Finally, the Mango Chutney, which is an additional 50 cents, tastes nothing like the Hawaii local style Mango Chutney, but essentially it tastes like get this: Rock Salt Plum. I kid you not. It doesn’t even taste like Mango. It tastes exactly like a gelatinous Rock Salt Plum seed, having an ever-slight salty edge, while not being quite as sweet as that. This being the most contrasting to the curry and samosas makes this a MUST-HAVE condiment with your order here, whatever it may be. Really if you ask me, this should be included with the curry by default, as I think it’s a requisite part of the dish.
Let’s have a closer look at Fiji Market’s Beef Curry…
Originally I was going to have Rajeev hook me up with smaller sampler containers of every Curry flavor, however I was in a rush, being it was late and getting dark, so I just ordered straight off the menu the two most popular flavors according to Yelpers (many also rave about the Lamb curry, but I wasn’t in the mood for that last night).
The red sauce is called Tomato Chutney, however it’s certainly not like your traditional fruit Chutney, being chunky and gelatinous, but more like a coarse ketchup.
And? Tasting both the Beef Curry and Chicken Curry by themselves without any condiments, they’re pretty “typical” of Indian Curry, I suppose, not having any sweetness to it like Japanese curry. There’s also no coconut milk flavor in it, nor that strong cinnamon and/or nutmeg twist. It’s mostly I’d say an “earthy” curry flavor profile, with nothing about it that particularly stood out, except for the spicy heat factor, where I’d put both these curries at “medium” in spiciness. However, take that with a grain of salt, as I’m not exactly the Skoville Unit warrior.
There’s certainly HUGE chunks of very tender chicken and beef to satisfy any meat lover. Surprisingly, I liked the Chicken Curry as much, if not more than the Beef Curry, being the style of Curry they use for the Chicken matched it better than the Beef Curry.
Like I said earlier, the Mint and Tamarind Sauce, along with Mango Chutney, Tomato “Chutney” and Pickled Carrots brought the whole dish together, flavor wise. It’s all about contrasting enhancement. Dip some chicken curry into the mint sauce and have a bite. Then try the Beef curry with the Mango Chutney, and so on and so forth, and you get the idea. REALLY GOOD! If there’s one thing I’d like to see added are fresh herbs served with it, such as Cilantro, Basil and Mint.
The Roti bread is “interesting”. It’s not Naan, that’s for sure, nor is it like Pita bread. It’s kinda’ like bread-meets-pie crust. with that, it works pretty good when you put some curry in a piece and wrap it and eat it like that, along with some of the sauces. Which in fact, you can order Curry wrapped in Roti bread for just $7, which Yelpers say the thing is HUGE. That said, when I go back, that’s what I’d get vs. the plate.
Summing it up, I give Fiji Market’s Beef Curry and Chicken Curry 4 SPAM Musubi, elevated from what I would have given 2 Musubi without the condiments. But with them, yes, 4!
I also grabbed one of their Vegetable Samosas to try, which is essentially a sort of pie crust like wrapper filled with mashed potatoes and green peas. They’re just $1.19 each, and pretty big, being the shape of a 3-dimensional triangle about the same overall size as a racquetball from tip to tip.
First let’s try it as is without the Mango Chutney…
Wow, tasty! Whoah, whoah, whoah… wait a minute… whoah, this sucker’s HOT! There’s hot peppers minced into this too, where I was running for the water bottle after a few bites. Still good though. As for the mashed potatoes, I swear they mixed in some sort of meat broth into it, because it almost tastes more like a meat samosas than vegetarian. And I actually like the flavor of the green peas with the meaty mashed potatoes. And that crusty, toasty wrapper works perfect with the fillings, making it overall come across like a pot pie finger food if you will.
Now let’s try it with the Mango Chutney, which Rajeev highly encouraged…
Oh yeah, now that’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout! Just like with the curries, the fruity contrast of the Mango Chutney with the Samosas totally took it from “good”, to, well, “Oh yeah!” lol At just about $1 each, I’d go back and stock-up on a 6-pack of these for a convenient, satisfying ‘n savory snack or even lunch at my desk at work.
Summing it up, I give Fiji Market’s Samosa another solid 4 SPAM Musubi.
While I didn’t get one hot to sample (what I tried already far exceeds how much I can eat!), I did buy a frozen New Zealand style Meat Pie, being the Yelper’s choice, the Steak & Mushroom, which I’ll try later and let you know what I think.
Fiji Market & Curry Shop
56-565 Kamehameha Hwy.
Kahuku, Hawaii 93731
Tel. (808) 293-7120
The Tasty Island Rating:
4 SPAM Musubi
• Fiji Market & Curry Shop – Yelp user reviews
P.S. Part of my “mission” to the North Shore this weekend was to check out where all the magic took place just a few days ago with the Eddie Aikau on at Waimea Bay. Here’s Waimea Bay yesterday (Saturday), where the waves were clearly not at “Eddie” height, being “calm” enough for most folks to go wading in the shore breaks….
A drone pilot capturing aerial footage of surfers and bodyboarders…
These drones are amazing how still they can hover in one spot for long periods of time, then turn on a dime when the subject moves….
I don’t know the nicknames of all the spots in Waimea Bay, but where I’m pointing towards “Towers”, the rock formation where you jump off, it was breaking about 2 to 3 ft. (Hawaiian scale) when I was there around 2pm. Pretty clean lefts with some barreling on this day. As always, way out the right side (Ewa) by the houses it was much bigger.
Horses graze in front of the Kahuku Wind Farm (generates 30 megawatts of electricity); it doesn’t look it in that photo, but in person, these wind turbines are MASSIVE! Almost surreal!