6.102 Bula Shrimp


17 (Fri) April 2015

Bula Shrimp


at Tu’s Place

-Martintar, Nadi-


Personal Deviation + Mission to Nadi + Personal Deviation : Day 2 (see previously 6.100 Coconut Carrot Cream Soup).

Arrived this morning, here through next Friday to attend a conference — details to come.

This is my second visit to Fiji (see most recently 5.180 Mahi Mahi with Snake Beans…).

Humble exterior…
…packed to capacity within, all expats/tourists.

Tu’s Place is a Fijian restaurant–sort of.  While certain ingredients (e.g., seafood, root vegetables) and seasonings (e.g., coconut, curry) are local, as are certain dishes (e.g. kokoda, rourou), the presentations tend to be westernized/modernized/stylized — what expats/tourists would imagine Fijian cuisine to be, though Fijians would probably never do it that way at home.  Currently ranked #2 of 70 restaurants in Nadi on TripAdvisor (actually, the #1 restaurant has recently shut down, so Tu’s Place holds the top spot for establishments currently in operation).

The menu also offers other cuisines, mostly American and Thai.
To put these prices into perspective (2 FJD = about 1 USD), the taxi driver explained that, on the extremely rare occasion that he and his family of four would go out for dinner, maybe once a month, the entire meal would cost around 15 FJD.

The food was excellent.

If the opportunity arises, I would definitely go back to this restaurant to try other dishes.

Welcome back!
Kokoda (3.0) — kinda like cole slaw with shredded cabbage and carrots mixed in; note that it’s served in a tanoa (see below).
Tu’s Mohito
Just shrimp in a curry-ish coconut sauce, nothing particularly profound, but perfectly seasoned, pairing perfectly with the fragrant jasmine rice.
I didn’t realize until too late that tavioka (cassava, a root vegetable similar to sweet potato) was available instead of rice — I asked if I could buy this bowl from them, but it had been acquired by the owner in Thailand — me: “Where is that?” manager: “In South East Asia.” me: “Oh, the country!!” — so no.

In Manila, our division has begun an informal investigation into the potential health risks of kava consumption.  Liver toxicity has been reported with heavy use as a concentrated extract in pharmaceutical products to treat anxiety, leading to bans in Australia and certain countries in Europe, which could be a big deal for certain countries in the Pacific that rely on kava exports for income.  While the amounts of the active components don’t come close in the beverage, the drink has been anecdotally associated with other harmful behaviors, such as alcohol abuse and driving under the influence.  Stay tuned.

When I got back to the hotel, a kava session was underway in the lounge.
Every evening, the hotel provides a live band and a tanoa (the traditional mixing bowl) — in fact, the name of the establishment is Tanoa International Hotel, which goes to show how important kava is in Fiji.
Locals drop by with packets of dried kava.
Each packet, sold on the streets at 10 FJD a pop, enough to make one large bowl of grog.
Pour the powder into a muslin bag…
…add water…
…massage the bag gently (“like it’s a woman’s breast,” they explained) to extract the juices…
…discard the dregs…
…stir constantly, as the powder doesn’t entirely dissolve and tends to settle at the bottom of the tanoa.
Every so often, maybe 5-10 minutes, one of the guys — whoever feels like taking role — scoops the grog from the tanoa and serves the guests, one cup at a time.
After nearly three hours, the session wrapping just shy of midnight, I lost count around the 20th cup.
To cleanse out the residual gritty sensation in the throat, the post-session washdown often consists of a beer — an example of the aforementioned association with alcohol.

While I had tasted the stuff before, I was curious to experience a full kava session, how the locals do it, so I took full advantage of the opportunity.  As Fijians tend to be, they were warm and welcoming to my participation.  I was the only non-local in the group; other hotel guests, for whatever reason, didn’t join, not even for a single cup.  By the end, everyone was very mellow, nobody saying a word — that’s the point, apparently, just to shut up and relax.  Otherwise, I didn’t really feel much beyond a slight numbness in the mouth and bloatedness in the belly from ingesting so much liquid.  Somewhat disappointed, I said my goodbyes and went off to bed.  I did have a great time bonding with the guys, very honored to have been a part of the session.

To be continued….

9 thoughts on “6.102 Bula Shrimp

  1. bula shrimp=cute name

    you participated in the full kava session…impressive! any numbness in the mouth? i tasted a single cup and felt numb in my mouth for a while…

    1. yes, in fact it does leave a little tingle, which I’d forgotten to mention, but i’ll amend the post–thanks for the catch!

    1. yes, but they said that women tend to do it amongst themselves, while the sessions at this particular venue is something of a guy thing.

  2. On our last vacation to Hawaii my husband found a kava stall one bright morning at a little strip mall and decided to try some because he’d heard it was a very “interesting” experience. He proceeded to mellow out for next few hours, didn’t say much, didn’t wanna do much, didn’t eat much, and then promptly fell asleep in our hotel room until waaaay past dinnertime, leaving me and my daughter stuck with each other. So my opinion of kava is that it’s super fucking annoying and for lazy ass punks.

  3. And it smells completely atrocious and looks like an animal shit in some liquid. So yeah, I don’t really like kava. Or maybe I’m just still mad at my husband for wasting a day of our precious vacation…

  4. if it’s openly available in a strip mall, that would mean that sale/consumption are probably legal in hawaii. we’re looking into how it’s being regulated in various countries — for the most part, it isn’t at all.

    do you recall how much your husband paid, and for how much?

    in Fiji, like i explained above, about US$5 buys enough powder to make a huge bowl, enough to last a small group a couple hours. but my understanding is that it isn’t retailed as a beverage, like in kava bars (which they do have in other countries).

    1. It was a few years ago so I’m not completely sure but it was about $5 for a medium sized bowl that took a while to finish. I’m pretty sure there was no regulation except for a handwritten sign with an age restriction

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