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Chef Lance Seeto
Sunday, January 27, 2013

When most people think about fast food you think about unhealthy burgers, fried chicken or fish, instant noodles and the quick and easy curry roti.

Take a look around most of Fiji's takeaway shops and they are filled with fried and oily foods with very little salad or fresh crunchy vegetables. Most fast foods do absolutely nothing for your health or contain the important medicine foods. One of the biggest excuses everyone has for eating these is a lack of time and convenience. I agree that Fijian cooking at home, whether its traditional Fijian or Indian cuisine, takes time. I think that's why people think they could not be bothered preparing a healthy meal packed with essential vitamins and minerals our bodies need to avoid NCD's like diabetes, obesity and heart attacks. It is easier to buy something quick, fill the belly and not have to wash pots and pans. But fast food does not have to mean junk foods.

The other day one of my chefs, who is dieting with me to lose weight, was eating a bowl of salad with sweet chilli sauce. "What in the world is that?" I asked. "My lunch, Chef" he replied.

I told him that a bowl of lettuce, cucumber and tomato is great for goats, but there was no way I was going to get excited about eating that for lunch. With no bread, flour or sugar in our diet, he explained it was the quickest meal he could think of.

But without a protein or carbohydrate for lunch, our energy levels would quickly drop and by mid-afternoon we'd be starving or falling asleep! So I quickly put on a pot of fresh water, added onions, ginger, garlic, lemon juice, chillies and seasoning to create a fast poaching liquid for fish that had been caught earlier in the day. Once the clear soup came to the boil, I added the fish and it cooked in less than 15 minutes. I then added handfuls of fresh moca spinach, turned off the heat, and had finished my healthy Hot and Sour Fish Soup with no oil, flour or sugar. One of my other chefs was watching from across the kitchen, and ran over with her empty bowl to see if there was enough for her.

"After I've taken a photo for the Fiji Times readers, its all yours!" I said. The photo of the fish soup was Ane's lunch, with the flavours reminding me of Wai Tom fish using seawater as the dressing.

Another fast, healthy and easy dish to cook is Chinese fried rice. Most families have leftover cooked rice, meats and vegetables in the fridge that can be quickly combined to make fried rice. And if you have one of the high burners from Fiji Gas that I used on the TV show, it takes no more than 5 minutes to cook.

The secret to a great fried rice is a very hot Chinese wok that breathes smoke when you heat it on high.

Called the "breath of the wok", the smokey flavour transfers into the food to create restaurant quality cuisine at home. Once you know the basic way of cooking an egg fried rice, adding any cooked meats and vegetables turns a simple rice dish into special fried rice. This fast way of cooking guarantees you will use less gas and empty your fridge of leftover food.

Food is both medicine and sustenance for all living creatures, and the sooner we learn how healthy food affects our bodies and how it can save our lives, the better. For Suva's fashion industry I will, for the very first time, be cooking in the nation's capital and showing the country's up and coming designers and fashionista's how fresh local food can not only taste good, but can be medicine for the body too. Without any fried foods and a decadent menu filled with Fijian produce, herbal infusions and ancient flavours, the Fiji Fashion Alliance's charity Crystal Ball next weekend looks set to kick start the healthy food revolution in 2013.

* Lance Seeto is an Australian chef, author and television personality based on Castaway Island Fiji. Follow his safari of life, fresh foods and happiness on Facebook's Fijian Food Safari page.

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