Best of the Maldives: Light Italian – Dusit Thani

Dusit Thani - seafood lasagna

Bonjourno! Italy Day today is the occasion to celebrate all things italiano. And the best place to start is the cuisine. Many people think of Italian meal as heavy with the pastas and pizzas (and if you have ever sat through a Sunday family meal in Italy, then you indeed will know the true meaning of “stuffed”). In a hot tropical destination, one might not think of Italian. Usually, it seems that the Italian resort offerings are for the (a) unadventuresome, or (b) the kids (see #a). But Dusit Thani’s Sea Grill restaurant brings an inventive gourmet touch to some true Italian mainstays…

  • Seafood Lasagna (see photo above) – Why don’t more resort restaurants do more seafood pastas (instead of the ubiquitous bolognaise)?? It’s a winge of mine that crops up regularly in my “Haven’t Seen Yet” series (eg. Lobster Mac and Cheese).
  • Light Gazpacho (see photo below)– A twist on Gazpacho made from blanched tomato and garlic and force through cloth for a pure, clear essence of tomato served over tomato and soy garnish.

Now Lori and I go to Italy several times a year and eating are a big part of our visits not to mention that our hometown of London has its own sampling of Italian high cuisine. Gazpacho and Lobster Bisque are my two most favorite soups…and I love soup. I have gazpacho everywhere. And yet, never had never sampled anything quite so delicately exquisite as these two classics with almost ethereal twists.

Bravissimo!

 

Dusit Thani - soup 1

Best of the Maldives: Chinese Fondue – Vilamendhoo

Vilamendhoo chinese fondue 2

Happy Chinese New Year!

Chinese cuisine is right up there with Maldivian and Indian curries as a common cuilinary feature of Maldive restaurants. In fact, it’s hard to go anywhere in the world without a Chinese dining establishment. I’ve eaten in many and I’ve not yet come across a specialty featured at Vilamendhoo of a ‘Chinese Fondue’…

“Seafood, beef, chicken and vegetables which you will cook in a simmering metal pot of stock at the center of your table. Truly delicious! Choice of chicken, vegetable, tom yam or miso soup. $40.00 Per person.”

Chinese expression for ‘bon appetit’ is ??? (mànmàn ch?!) which translates as ‘eat slowly’ which is easy to do with a relaxed fondue preparing each item individually.

Best of the Maldives: African Cuisine – NIYAMA

NIYAMA Tribal

If you like you food as freshly ‘roasted’ as your coffee, then the Tribal restaurant at the newly inaugurated NIYAMA resort offers ‘modern campfire dining.’ Sort of like W Retreat’s ‘Fire’ restaurant on steroids.

I was first alerted to Tribal by one of my Maldive friends in the industry who visited it just before opening. He reported to me that for “first time I was at a loss for words in a long time.”

“Modern campfire dining. Sand floors. Tiki torches. Local inspiration meets global flair. Tastes from South America to Africa to Asia cooked in the outdoor kitchen. Entrees seared over open flames. Tribal gatherings — a dash of adventure, a pinch of fun.”

The concept reminds me of one of my most memorable holiday meals of all time. On safari in the Kruger staying at the Londolozi game reserve, our jeep pullied into the bush after a long afternoon of looking at the ‘Big 5’. As night settled on the South African plain, we arrived at a roaring campfire already preparing the night’s meal of roasted leg of impala (prompting hilarious jokes from me to the kids about 3-legged impalas for the rest of the trip that I’m sure they never got tired of).

I’ve always thought that the African safari industry is a real role model the Maldives’ tourism development. Africa has created a super premium product out of stunning natural beauty and exceptional wildlife encounters. The ‘resorts’ (ie. ‘lodges’) are packed with 5-star luxury, while maintaining the rustic, natural ambience of the surroundings. They have been drawing big ticket tourists for decades longer that the Maldives and have plenty of know-how about packaging and promoting this experience for top dollar. In fact, it was my own personal background working with African tourism that contributed to my starting Maldives Complete in the first place.

It’s no surprise then that Tribal’s own culinary theme has a heavy African slant with menu items such as “Warhog Cutlets smothered in cape mustard, Loin of African Karoo lamb with wild bush rosemary and garlic, Nile Perch Tikin Xic (prepared the traditional Maya style), Bush Pig and cabbage soup, Warm Ostrich Babotie, Mekong River Squid, and African Cast Iron Potjies such as Springbok slow cooked for 6 hours over coals with root vegetables.” (quoted from a superb interview with the Tribal Chef Ken Gundu on the Linara travel blog).

Akubekuhle! (‘Cheers’ in Zulu)

 

NIYAMA Tribal sign

Best of the Maldives: Jain Vegetarian – Kurumba

Kurumba - Jain vegetarian cabbage with capsicum

 

 

Happy Paryusana!

Paryusana is the “most important Jain festival”. It is a feast after 10 days of fasting. Mind you the ‘Jain vegetarians’ aren’t exactly gorging themselves in food in the normal times so I imagine that Paryusana must be particularly enthusiastic for them.

‘Jain’ vegetarians follow a very strict regimen based on their philosophy of “ahimsa” literally translated as "non-injuring". The notion of ‘karma’ is central with their belief that every act by which a person directly or indirectly supports killing or injury is seen as act of violence (‘himsa’). As a result, even root vegetables (eg. potato, onion, garlic) are excluded because the ‘uprooting’ of them is seen as a violent act. The food they do include is referred to in Sanskrit as 'sattvic' food which means that it is “based on the qualities of goodness, lightness and happiness.”

A very common question on TripAdvisor Forum is the availability of vegetarian food. Not just from the surging growth in guests from India and the sub-continent, but also around the world where vegetarianism continues to grow in popularity as a part of a healthy and eco-friendly lifestyle.

With vegetarian dishes being quite prominent in the region, a vegetarian always has a broad range of choices at the Maldives resorts. But Kurumba went a step further to create a special range of Jain vegetarian dishes. The Jain menu was implemented by prior Food and Beverage Manager Dave Minten and includes such delicacies as…

  • Cabbage with mixed Capsicum (above)
  • Cauliflower and Green Peas (below)
  • Cottage Cheese with Green Chili Tomato (bottom)

Wishing you all goodness, lightness and happiness on Paryusana.

 

Kurumba - Jain vegetarian cauliflower and green peas

 

Kurumba - Jain vegetarian cottage cheese with green chili tomato

Best of the Maldives: Japanese Restaurant – Adaaran Vadoo

Vadoo Kitajima 2

 

And another Happy Birthday…today to the Emperor of Japan.

To celebrate, it’s time for another doff of the kabuto once again to all things Japanese in the Maldives, Adaaran Vadoo. This time, in this season that puts the ‘feast’ into ‘festive’, it is the Kitajima restaurant. Many resorts feature Japanese fare like sushi and tempura and some even have full fledged Japanese restaurants. But none as extensive and authentic as Kitajima. The materials used in building the restaurant, supplies used in preparing the dishes (except for the hyper-fresh seafood), and the staff straight from Japan (including the manageress who has been there since the opening).

“Adaraan Prestige Vadhoo is unique in the Maldives to offer a Japanese specialty restaurant. For those wishing a change of taste and scene you can try traditional Japanese meals ranging from fresh sushi to succulent tempura at the Kithajima restaurant. Our staffs have had many years of training and experience in the preparation of Japanese cuisine and will endeavour to prepare your selections to suit your preferences. Traditional Japanese favourites ranging from edamame and spring rolls to sushi, tempura and sashimi served with specially made sauces and accompaniments are just some of the dishes on offer to satisfy your cravings. Only the freshest of seasonal sea food and best ingredients are used in the preparation of the dishes. Many Japanese beers and Sake is available to enhance the dining experience.”

????

 

Vadoo Kitajima 3