Best of the Maldives: Wood Apple – Chaaya Island Dhonveli

Chaaya Island Dhonveli - wood apple juice

 

Over the 10 days of Tour #5, I did uncover 143 new Best of the Maldives candidates, and over the next couple of weeks, I will be sharing the first of these for each resort visited in the order of the tour. These selections are not necessarily the most stunning or dramatic, but just ones I picked out that I was especially fond of. The others will be posted over the coming months.

The first island up was Chaaya Island…Chaaya Island Dhonveli. After 55 resorts, I’m always a bit surprised to see something I’ve never seen before. Living in a culinary capital of the world (London) and travelling extensively, I especially surprised to find something on a menu I haven’t seen or tried before. Well, at breakfast at Dhonveli, the array of exotic fruit juices included a something I not only hadn’t tried, I hadn’t even heard of it – Wood Apple.

“Wood apple” is one of the most apt names for a fruit since “Orange”. It looks like an apple…encased in wood. In fact, you have to whack it with a spoon to crack the hard exterior. It comes from Sri Lanka, but can be found in the Maldives.

The juice isn’t your typical reddish or orangey colour of most fruit juices, but a rather earthy brown. And not in a golden “apple juice” kind of way. Imagine the pulpiest, mocha-est apple juice. Supposedly extremely good for digestion.

Dhonveli will serve you wood apple on its own (see below), but it is VERY tart (much like rhubarb). So it is typically served with honey or sugar on top.

 

Chaaya Island Dhoniveli - wood apple serving

 

Chaaya Island Dhonveli - wood apple breakfast

Best of the Maldives: Salt Stone Cooking – One & Only Reethi Rah

One and Only Reethi Rah salt stone cooking

Maldives resorts are full of surprises. Like getting a taste of the highest place on the planet served to you at the world’s flattest place.

One & Only Reethi Rah offers up an epicurean feast of food and drink superlatives which will fill the “Best of the Maldives” plate for months to come. One that captured our imagination was their salt stone cooking. They heat up a block of salt stone from the Himalayas to 400 degrees on which you cook your food at your table. The salt in the stone gently leeches into the food in the process for a very subtle seasoning.

They also have bowls made out of the salt stone (see below) for serving other dishes. This particular salt crystal from this area of the world is pink. I had never realised that salt came in so many colours. I had visited the famous Wieliczka salt mines in Krakow and their salt crystal was blue.

Reethi Rah cooking rocks!

One and Only Reethi Rah salt stone bowl

Best of the Maldives: Gazpacho – Sheraton Full Moon

Sheraton Full Moon gazpacho

In honour of Italy’s National ‘Republic Day’ holiday today, I pay tribute to the finest execution of one of my favourite Italian treats – Gazpacho.

Probably because it is a refreshing cold soup, it is served at every resort that I have been to. I happen to be a soup lover and gazpacho is right up their at the top of my list of favourite styles. I shy away from awarding ‘Best Of’ distinctions on food because (a) there is so much fine cuisine in the Maldives now that it seems unfair to do so without sampling everything, and (b) a supremely well done dish is hard to distinguish from another supremely well done dish.

I break the protocol through for Sheraton Full Moon’s ‘Trio of Gazpacho’ at its Sand Coast restaurant. Most of all, it is not just one gazpacho, but three gazpacho treats. The first is a delightful traditional recipe. The second is made from green tomatoes (after years of visiting the American South it is encouraging to learn that there is something you can do with green tomatoes besides fry them…the South’s answer to everything culinary). The third was an almond base with grapes and apples.

It wasn’t just the stand out execution that struck me. The whole ‘gazpacho experience’ was excellent. Sand Coast is set in a grove of coconut trees on the sand by the water. This set up is certainly not unique in the Maldives (we ate almost everyone of our Coco Palm Dhuni Kolu meals in a restaurant they had like this), but we are always surprised how hard it is to get toes-in-the-sand-water’s-edge eating in the Maldives. The restaurant played soothing ambient music with a local twist. And the price was very reasonable and less than what you would pay for a similar dish in a London establishment (it also spoils the appetite a bit looking at stupid prices in menus especially at the higher end resorts).

Kudos to Chef Garth Welsh (see below) who has really set up an operation of lots of gustatory delights at Sheraton Full Moon.

 

Sheraton Full Moon Chef Garth Welsh

Chef Garth Welsh

Best of the Maldives: Bananas – Adaaran Hudhuranfushi

Hudhuranfushi Bananas

 

Who knew there were so many types of Bananas?

The One Show on BBC this week did a piece on bananas (minute 11:00 of the BBC iPlayer recording available for the next two weeks to UK residents) which highlighted their delicious diversity. And if you want personally explore their rich variety, then Adaaran Hudhuranfushi is the place to visit. In their own produce garden they grow 6 different varieties of bananas all which are served fresh in the restaurants.

We were able to enjoy them with lunch in treacle sauce during our visit (see below). But if you want to see some truly artistic banana creations, check out Laughing Squid.

 

Hudhuranfushi Bananas 2

 

Hudhuranfushi Bananas in Treacle Sauce

Best of the Maldives: Produce Garden – Adaaran Hudhuranfushi

Hudhuranfushi garden

 

Happy Vernal Equinox!

The official arrival of spring is a milestone to start working on that garden. And if you are into gardening, then the resort with the ‘biggest’ appeal would be Adaaran Hudhuranfushi.

Hudhuranfushi has the largest produce garden of any resort in the Maldives. So you are guaranteed a massive selection of fresh produce at the buffet. Such diverse produce as squash-like ‘snake goat’ (see picture below). Gardening is big thing in terms of scale and heritage at Hudhuranfushi. Before it was a resort island, it was an agricultural island.

Guests are welcome to tour the massive complex, but a guide is recommended to highlight all the distinctive things growing there (and to help keep from getting lost).

 

Hudhuranfushi Snake Goat

Best of the Maldives: Donuts – Holiday Inn Male

Holiday Inn Male Gonuts

 

When I came upon the Haveeru Online piece on ‘Gonuts’ (“International doughnuts cafe chain opens in Maldives”) I nearly fainted with anticipation. Okay, it wasn’t Krispy Kreme. But doughnuts and the Maldives. It’s like ambrosia and paradise mixed into one indolent concoction. So on my recent trip, I had to make a special detour to check out Gonuts. Despite my discerning palette for all things doughy and fried, I was beside myself when I got to experience them.

First, they were good. I had the ‘Chocolate Profiterole’. It appeared to be made fresh as I waited. The filling was particularly ‘creamy’ as opposed to the more gelatinous custard of conventional donuts.

Second, they were appropriately exotic. Flavours offer took the doughnut repertoire to whole new dimensions. ‘Spicy Tuna’ and ‘Sambalicious’ (with chilli pepper) were too adventurous for me even.

Finally, the dining area was a masterstroke. One of my pet peeves with resorts is when they pave over too many dining areas and don’t have enough ‘toes in the white sand’ places to eat. And yet, here in the heart of downtown Male, Gonuts’ own dining area was laid out with white sand for people to enjoy their delicacy in a delightful cafe setting.

So why do I credit the Holiday Inn Male with this ‘Best of Maldives’ distinction? Well, Gonuts has a take-away service! Which means that guest at the Holiday Inn (a few blocks down the road) can ring up for a few concoctions to enjoy with their mocktail by the roof side pool.

 

Gonuts with Donuts

Best of the Maldives: Seasonings – Anatara

Nasrulla Fuddan Anantara

If you want a change from vanilla fare for your savory snacks, then you need to be gingerly cumin on down to the the Fuddan Restaurant at Anantara, the epice-ntre of allspices. Fuddan features a seasoning expert – Nasrulla (pictured above) to assist with just the right final touch to your cuisine.

The Times Online has a fun review of the seasoned expert…

“Rubbing salt into the wound…Water sommeliers are so last Thursday week. The latest thing is, drum roll, the salt sommelier. Oooh, yes. With no hint of irony, Anantara, in the Maldives, presents Nasrulla, who will guide you around 11 types, including Cyprus black lava flake, Bali coconut and lime-smoked sea salt. “We’re quite serious,” the hotel says. “Don’t take it with a pinch of salt.” Oh, please. Mindful of the dignity of Nasrulla’s calling, we don’t stoop to puns ourselves. Except in headlines.”

The Eye of Dubai has a detailed report including details of some of the salt varieties on offer (“Smoked Salish salt from Washington State (Nasrulla’s favourite) goes well with grilled food, especially red meats, while smoked salt from Bali is recommended to enhance the taste of tuna prepared with coconut and kaffir lime”)