Kaikoso is a very popular shellfish in Fiji. They are often found washed up on the sand when the tide is low. It is easily collected from the seashore and is found in abundance across the country. At low tide, you can sometimes see fishermen and women out and about catching fish stuck in pools of water along the reef (pictured below). There are often children about too, collecting kaikoso and other beached sea creatures like beach-de-mer (sea cucumbers) and sea urchins.
This recipe is a very much loved one in Fiji. Most villages in Fiji are located near a water source, either the river, near a mountain or near the sea. Fijians love their seafood fresh, straight out from the water and into the cooking pot. A lot of Fijian food is inspired by fresh ingredients you can forage (or grow) on the land and from the sea. Sea grapes (nama), edible wild fern (ota), lemon and kaikoso can all be collected by hand – this encourages sustainability where you only gather as much as you need for the next meal.
When choosing the best ingredients, look for freshness and firmness. Make sure the kaikoso looks and smells like the sea before you buy them from the market vendors – if unsure, shop around and ask the vendors about when they had collected the kaikoso. If it has been more than a day or two, avoid buying them as they will not taste so great. Because the rest of the fresh ingredients are eaten raw, be sure to check them for their crisp texture. Especially the ota which should not be wilting and the nama that should have firm, round ‘grapes’.
Last but not least, make sure the coconut milk has been freshly grated and squeezed from recently fallen brown coconuts (check for freshness by shaking the coconut to check if there is water in them – empty coconuts are most probably rotten). If you cannot get them fresh, you can always use packaged, unsweetened coconut milk from the grocery store.
Talei Veiqaravi has kindly provided us with the beautiful and simple recipe below that can be made quickly and is super delicious! Try it today and share your creations on our Facebook Page.
1 kg Kaikoso – Reef Mussels
2 Cups Freshly Squeezed Coconut Milk
2 Cups Nama or Fresh Sea Grapes
1 Freshly Squeezed Cumquat or Lemon – To Taste
1/2 Diced Onion
1 Thinly Sliced Spring Onion
1 Small Grated Carrot
Coriander Leaves Chopped – To Taste
- Bring the kaikoso to a boil in enough water to cover them all. Once the shells open, remove the flesh from inside and discard all unopened shells (these may have gone bad)
- Remove the extra gills on the kaikoso and place in a medium sized bowl. You can also chop them into smaller bite sized pieces if you prefer
- In the same bowl, add the rest of the ingredients and mix together
- Serve fresh with a nice refreshing beverage.