Best of the Maldives: Coconut Arrack – Bathala

Bathala Arrack

 

This week’s posts have all been in the spirit of coconut, so why not end the week with its very essence. Most resorts will carry some sort of obligatory coconut spirit. Typically, Malibu Rum for inclusion in the ubiquitous pina coladas (my favourite tropical cocktail). But if you want the authentic taste of the Indian Ocean, the “Old Arrack” is a something a bit more distinctive produced locally in Sri Lanka. The only time I have come across it is at Bathala who include it in their AI selection.

Best of the Maldives: Coconut Waffles – Vilamendhoo

Vilamendhoo coconut waffles

 

 

Waffle, waffle, waffle! There’s a day for everything, it seems, and today happens to be Waffle Day (a Swedish tradition).

I always wonder why more resorts don’t add a touch of the exotic to ordinary dishes. Which is why when I like to fuss over the exotic soupcon added to the soup, or the delicate tropical ingredient added to the delicacy.

One example is Vilamendhoo’s coconut waffles. All resorts have a breakfast buffet and most serve have a pancake and waffle station. Just a touch of coconut turned Vila’s from an ordinary offering to an extraordinary extra.

Läcker!

Best of the Maldives: Asian Fusion Dessert – Ayada

Ayada - coconut milk and water chestnut dessert

 

 

One of my all time favourite coconut delicacies is the “Tub Kim Krob” served at Ayada’s Kai restaurant. Kai serves gourmet Asian fusion food to rival Anatara’s memorable Geckos. Tub kim krob is the simplest of dishes – basically coconut milk and water chestnut – and yet so divinely moreish. I struggle to find Asian desserts that I really savour (especially if you eliminate all the mango concoctions). But this dish I could eat again and again. And I wasn’t alone. Ayada Sales and Marketing Director Niclas Prokop had joined us and like most resort management accompanying us for dinner was pretty indifferent to what he had to eat (I’m sure he’s had everything on the menu many times). Except when it came to dessert. Then, there was no hesitation and he immediately put in an order for the tub kim krob. And the other staff with us echoed his request. So I definitely had to try some myself.

More like “YUM tim krob”!

Best of the Maldives: Coconut – Kurumba

Kurumba - coconut

 

 

Coconuts are synonymous with tropical paradise…and Kurumba is synonymous with everything coconut. “Kurumba” actually means “young coconut” (the green kind that you get coconut water from) in Dhivehi. Literally the signature resort for Cocos nucifera, Kurumba incorporates this eponymous omnipresence every part of your visit.

Your arrival on the island is greeted with cold cloths perfumed with coconut essence and a refreshing coconut sorbet. Every restaurant and bar features some creative coco-concoction. The Kandu bar serves a frozen Coconut Martini (coconut sorbet, coconut water, toasted coconut infused vodka), as well as a Coconut Mojito. They also make one of the best Pina Colada’s I’ve enjoyed in the Maldives (I’m a bit of a Pina Colada fan and make a point to have one at every resort I visit). The Café offers a distinctive Coconut French toast prepared with stewed mango, jack-fruit, pistachios and mascarpone.

As it happens, all of these coconut preparations are made with coconut from the island. Using the coconut is fairly obvious, but Kurumba also has the only press for making their own coconut oil. They take mature coconut (not a “Kurumba”), split it, remove the white fruit, shred it, dry it in the sun, and run it through the press. Upul, their resident Horticulturalist, demonstrated this process to me which produces 60-70 litres/month.

They not only use it in the kitchen, but also in their spa and even sell it in their shop and to other islands. The shop features the resort’s own “Coconut Flower” scent made in Sri Lanka and used in the room amenities as well.

Best of the Maldives: Pain Perdu – One & Only Reethi Rah

One and Only Reethi Rah french toast

 

 

Let them eat eggy bread! A toast to Bastille Day today.

I’m a bit of a breakfast aficionado. Most important meal of the day. My tastes range from the refined (eg. Eggs Benedict) to the profane (eg. grits with maple syrup). Lori makes a superb version with cinnamon and vanilla. Most resorts will have variation on ‘French Toast’ on their menu or buffet. But One & Only Reethi Rah’s was truly sublime. Coconut Banana Pain Perdu sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with whipped butter and a fruit coulis.

Magnifique!

Best of the Maldives: Recycling – Kurumba

Kurumba recycling 2
Lori and Jason Kruse, Kurumba GM, with ground glass

With my emphasis on discovery it took some big stuff to lure back to Kurumba for the third time when there were so many unseen resorts to hit. But I must say that the detour was worth it with quite possibly the most inspiring “Best of the Maldives” discovery of the entire trip.

To date, most resort eco-initiatives have fallen into the following categories…

But as anyone who has ridden by Thilafushi will attest, the sheer volume of waste and rubbish is a massive challenge for the country. Most resorts are looking at packaging and waste reduction initiatives. But Kurumba is leading the way with a strikingly comprehensive recycling programme.

And investments they are. First, Kurumba has shelled out some serious capital to get some advanced machinery to process the waste. But more so than that, Kurumba is experimenting with these gadgets and tuning them and the processes around them to get the most out of them.

  • Bottles – Ground down and used in cement
  • Coconut Husks – Ground down into “choir” which is used to make ropes and a range of building materials. Also, using coconut husks to fuel their BBQs. They found out that the husks burn hotter than the charcoal used previously so they have had to adjust their cooking.
  • Green Waste – Shedder composter which mixes heat+air+bacteria for accelerated decomposition. Material basically broken down in 3 hours and then let sit for 40 days (it was supposed to be 10 days, but experimentation has shown 40 to be ideal for the best soil creation). Going through 1700 kgs of kitchen waste per day.
  • Styrofoam – Shedder to make filler for things like beanbags. Not working properly, but still experimenting to get it right.

Kurumba is sharing its expertise with other resorts now and hopes to pioneer a drive to zero waste in the Maldives. If successful, Thilafushi could itself be relegated to the dustbin of history.

 

Kurumba plastic recycling

Plastic and Styrofoam recycling

 

Kurumba recycling

Green waste mulching

 

Kurumba recycling 5

Green waste accelerated composting

 

Kurumba coconut recycling

Shredded coconut husks

Maldives QI, Part 4

Maldives coconut

Having recently had a beer with a writer from QI and keeping up the humour, I thought it time for the next installment of ‘Maldive QI’…

  • Q: Where do you find the ‘Maldives Coconut’?
  • A: Maldives?
  • Buzzzz!

The ‘Maldives Coconut’ is very much a part of the Maldives history, but curiously not part of the Maldives itself. Der Spiegel recently did a piece on the intriguing nut

“The captain surely imagined it all a little differently. The French adventurer Francois Pyrard intended on sailing to India in 1602. But when his ship Corbin gave out on the open seas, he had to seek refuge in the Maldives. Unfortunately, the king there wouldn’t let the shipwrecked party leave for five years. When Pyrard and his crew were finally able to flee, they took the tale of the strange fruit with them back to Europe. It had been found frequently on the beaches of the islands. It wasn’t just that they were gigantic, the fruit’s shape was also reminiscent of a woman’s pelvic region. The king demanded that these alluring finds be delivered directly to him, and threatened that those who didn’t comply would lose a hand, or even be put to death. What Pyrard saw was the nut of the Coco de Mer palm, one of the rarest palm trees on the planet, also known as the Lodoicea maldivica. It is three to four times as large as an average coconut. They are also heavier than anything comparable that biologists can find, weighing up to 20 kilograms (44 pounds).”

It actually grows in the Seychelles, but makes its way to its namesake islands (“maldivica”) floating on the Indian Ocean waters which may account for its colloquial name, ‘Coco de Mer’. Der Spiegel describes this intriguing species in some detail on the occasion of the Botanical Garden in Berlin succeeding in germinating it. Despite its rather fertility-suggstive appearance, it is actually dubbed the ‘Panda of the Plant World’ for its difficulty in growing.

I researched the beguiling nut talking to Verena Wiesbauer Ali who not only helped with the previous QI pieces, but also co-authored the first definitive picture guide to the flora of the Maldives ‘Maldives: Trees and Flowers of a Tropical Pardise’. There are dozens of various guide books to the underwater delights of the islands, but this is the first that provides a comprehensive catalogue with dazzling colour photos for land lubbers. You can get a copy by writing to the co-authour Peter Dittrich (25 Euros) to find out what coconut palms and every other type of colourful and curious tree and plants that do grow there.

Maldives Tree and Flowers