Fijian Indian Food in Fiji and in the San Francisco Bay Area
"Kiosk Fast Food" in Savusavu and "Curry Corner" in Hayward
On the left of this picture, is Kamla, the cook at a little Indian fast food kiosk to one side of the market in Savusavu on Fiji's second largest island, Vanua Levu.
One night we were heading towards town from our lodgings in a taxi. We were looking for Indian food. We had seen a spot we thought might be good on the tourist stretch, but our driver told us he would take us to a better place for Indian food which is how we came to meet Kamla and her family. Their Kiosk is a tiny, cluttered shack-like building with neon lights.
Kamla, who has four children and whose husband, Mahendra, works for the local council, told us she pays $F300 (approx $175) a month to rent the kiosk. In order to make money, Kamla works seven days a week. She starts her day by getting up at 5.30 and doesn't shut shop again until nine, ten or even sometimes ten-thirty at night.
The Prasad family: Three of Kamala and Mahendra's beautiful, happy children. The family eat roti and vegetable curry for breakfast and then pack up the same items to take to school for lunch every day.
Although there are about ten items listed on the hand-written menu posted on the back wall, you cannot expect all, or even many of them, to be available. During our visit chicken curry at $F3.50 ($2) was the only choice offered. Kamla told us that this curry is the most popular dish on the menu and that the listed fish in lolo is so unpopular that she doesn't actually make it any more.
When you order chicken curry in Fijian Indian restaurant it comes with sides. Rice, dahl, tamarind chutney and bread are all included in the deal.
You might have to wait a little while for your meal because Kamla makes up the indian roti breads from scratch.
They arrive at the table freshly cooked and piping hot. The meal is eaten with your fingers, without the aid of any cutlery. The excellent bone-in chicken curry is hot with a spicy kick. The dahl is milder in contrast. By the time you have finished the meal your finger nails are stained yellow from the tumeric spices.
I truly enjoyed my Fijian experience, but it has to be said that Fiji is not a country that has an abundance of good produce at its fingertips and because of that it is not a cuisine you find yourself particularly yearning for. After returning home, there seemed no reason why I would go out of my way to try and find Fijian food in California, for example.
But when I had the opportunity, recently, to sample Fijian Cuisine at Curry Corner in Hayward, I found myself wondering what it might be like. There are similarities between Curry Corner and the Kiosk in Fiji, both of them a one woman show and each location small and cramped with only one table at which guests can eat. What sets Curry Corner apart from its Fijian couterparts is that the standard of produce available here in California beats anything available in Fiji hands down and because the owner Saras Rao shops at local markets regularly, you can be sure she is only using the best, freshest ingredients available. On my visit we ate in (most customers take the food away in large containers). Rao brought us plate after plate of lamb curry, spicy, fried, soft, succulent fish bursting with flavour from its exotic coating, beans, vegetable dhal and chutneys to share. Everything was unusually delicious. I can't recommend this place enough, especially if you have a keen appetite. The bargain price for a huge meal is just $7.50 per person. And, just like in Fiji, you have to be patient and wait whilst Rao makes up some of those roti from scratch. Rumours are that Rao may have to pack up and move on soon, so be sure to try it whilst you still have the chance. Call first to make sure she is open.
Curry Corner: 26657 Mission Blvd - Hayward, CA 94544 - (510) 581-4003
Other reviews of Curry Corner:
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