Exotic eaten delights

Fiji’s favourite chef returns to our TV screens tomorrow night with a brand new cooking series featuring healthy recipes that you can cook at home, while learning a new way to eat for health. Chef Seeto shares an exclusive preview of FBC’s Exotic Delights.

Changing the way we see food and educating ourselves about a healthier diet are fundamental stepping stones to living longer. This brand new cooking series takes viewers on a journey to rediscover the foods of life as I combine ancient gastronomy and my knowledge of medicinal foods with a whole new world of flavours to not only help correct the dietary mistakes of the past, but to get you to think differently about the food you put on your plate.

New cooking show

with health message

Exotic Delights is not about fancy cooking, it is about turning simple ingredients in the home into restaurant-quality dishes with local flavour. But more importantly, the show is about how to incorporate more of the foods of life — the superfoods — into our daily diet to offset the naughty things that most of us are eating too much of.

So what’s in store for viewers over the 13-week season? Each 30-minute episode features three exotic recipes I cook at home or at my beach club restaurant to hopefully forever change the way you think about food.

Episode 1 — Tree of life

airs on November 27

The first episode, which airs tomorrow night, asks how much coconut do you eat or drink? The tree of life — coconut — has sustained Fiji’s ancient civilisation for thousands of years but its healing properties as a medicinal food is in danger of being long forgotten.

Have you ever noticed how much a coconut looks like a female human breast, or how fresh coconut milk looks awfully similar to mother’s breast milk? Probably not, but nature has strange ways of reminding us where to find our nutritional foods.

Both breast milk and fresh coconut contain a powerful antimicrobial fatty acid called lauric acid that protects the immune system. Coconut bu water also contains traces of lauric acid and in this episode I stop by the roadside to chat to a couple of coconut vendors. To my surprise, one of them already knew his coconuts were medicine after gaining the knowledge from one of his best customers; a local doctor from the nearby hospital. Like a roadside “coconut doctor”, the young man chooses specific coconuts for his discerning customers. He impressed me so much that I decided to show him how to infuse his coconuts with more flavour and medicine – pineapple and layalaya (Fijian medicinal ginger).

Tomorrow’s episode also features a soup made from bu water and a supercharged coconut chicken curry that uses grated coconut, coconut water, oil and milk – my coconut chicken rendang.

This is the dish that cameraman was talking about and it lasted all of five minutes once the cameras stopped rolling.

Episode 2 — Eat the rainbow

airs on December 4

The next time you see a rainbow, take note of the colour bands. To me, Mother Nature again shines her light in the sky to remind us to eat fruits and vegetables that make up the colours of the rainbow. I learned this in junior school back in Australia but eating the rainbow is not so commonly known in Fiji.

I hope this episode changes that perception. Nature has cleverly engineered plant-based foods in different colours to identify specific vitamins and minerals, and our colour vision allows us to tell when fruits and vegetables are ready to eat.

Most birds which can also see in colour, know it. Humans just need to learn it.

Episode 3 — Not just Indian

airs on December 11

I don’t know how many times people have said to me that spices are bad for which couldn’t further from the truth. I’m not talking about chilli spiced foods, but dishes rich in spices like cinnamon, cloves, cumin and fennel.

Fijian Indian cuisine uses many of the locally grown and nutritional spices, but spices are not just reserved for Indian cooking. In this episode, I debunk the myths of ingredients being only for Indian cuisine and show how to cook a different dish with the same ingredients including roti tacos and an exotic Moroccan chicken.

Episode 4 — Street foods

airs on December 18

Fiji doesn’t yet have the vast variety of street foods like the hawker stands of South East Asia or food trucks of Los Angeles, but things are beginning to change.

Look no further than the main streets of Suva or the cafes found in most markets and you begin to realise that Fiji has the potential to create a burgeoning network of village and town centre eateries that sell homecooked foods.

In this episode, I stop by the corn village of Vatukarasa to show a local vendor a different way to cook his corn and get home in time to create a barbecue recipe with a difference.

Episode 5 — Medicines of the sea

airs on December 25

With the modern diet filled with so much meat, this Christmas Day episode helps reminds us that our Pacific island ancestors ate a mainly pescetarian diet rich in seafood, sea vegetables, fruits and farm vegetables. During the time of great discovery by ancient man, living near volcanoes for its soil and by the sea for its sea food, helped sustain those civilisations for thousands of years with little NCDs.

In this episode we learn why our underwater farms are so rich in nutritional and new ways to enjoy its sea crops.

Episode 6 — Cooking with fruits

airs on January 1

As a sugar-producing nation it is ironic that the very ingredient we export around the world is also one of the causes of NCDs when we eat too much of it.

With our daily intake of refined sugars reaching critical levels, I share some old ways of sweetening home cooked food without using processed sugar by using local fruits. In this episode I created something that I’ve never attempted before but works so well as a brunch dish – savoury lamb mince with caramalised banana, fried egg and steamed rice.

Episode 7 — Eat water

airs on January 8

Do we drink water or eat water? Well, both!

In this episode, we learn water is the essence of all life on the planet and without regular rehydration, our body won’t function as it should.

Foods high in water include many fruits and vegetables and there are many ways to get the recommended daily intake of water by eating more water-based ingredients. We also learn a strange way to tell if you are not hydrated enough by looking at the colour of your pee!

Episode 8 — School lunch

airs on January 15

As children prepare to return to school, this is a reminder that school lunches are one of the most important meals for growing children as it is when they most need nutrition, energy and lots of brain food to stay alert. This was a fun episode as a group of schoolchildren is challenged to create their own school lunch boxes with a table full of healthy foods I prepared. The results will surprise you!

Episode 9 — Go vegetarian

airs on January 22

Some of the world’s leading nutritionists believe the optimum diet for all humans regardless of race is a vegetarian one. This episode explores why nutrition experts think a vegetarian diet may help prevent many of the non-communicable diseases facing modern civilization. You’ll be surprised by the variety of dishes you can create with our local vegetables.

Episode 10 — Asian stir fry

airs on January 29

The secret to Asian cuisine is in the variety of sauces, but to many Fijians, cooking a restaurant-quality stir fry seems like an impossibility. In this episode, I demonstrate that with the right cooking equipment and a trip to the local Chinese store to find the right sauce, your family might be enjoying Chinese dishes at home more often.

Episode 11 — World salads

airs on February 2

If we are to have any chance in our battle against NCDs, we need to learn to eat more raw fruits and vegetables to gain their nutritional benefit as Mother Nature intended. And to help do this we look at some salad and dressing recipes from around the world to entice the family to eat more salad.

In this episode we also visit the Grace Road farm at Navua to discover a variety of new fruits and vegetables the farm has introduced into the Fijian diet.

Episode 12 — Steaming

airs on February 9

Steaming is one of the healthiest ways to eat with less oil and the way it helps lock in an ingredient’s nutrition and flavour.

Using a wok, pot or a special steamer, there are many steaming recipes to integrate into the family diet but the secret is all in the accompanying sauce. In this episode I steam fish, crab and a truly not-to-be missed dish to cook at home – steamed tandoori chicken.

Episode 13 – Culinary evolution – airs February 16

Fiji’s tourism industry has been inspiring and encouraging its chefs to use more local produce to not only help reduce our import bill, but to put more locally-inspired dishes on to their menus to entice and tantalise international visitors. With new eateries like Malamala Beach Club following this trend, new recipes and dishes are emerging that can be easily prepared at home that may change the perception of what Fijian home cuisine may become in the future.

? Exotic Delights with Lance Seeto airs every Monday at 7.45pm on FBC TV, or visit him for lunch at Malamala Beach Club.

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