A fusion closer to the Maldivian home is Soneva Fushi’s “Tastemaker” who combines Laccadive flavours with a range of Asian flavours drawn from his travels in the region:
“Maldivian born and bred, Chef Sobah is considered one of the pioneers of his islands’ rich culinary heritage. As a child, his family’s main source of income was from fishing, and he would help his parents sun-dry and smoke the daily catch. Today, Chef Sobah draws upon the traditional techniques of Maldivian cooking in his Soneva Fushi restaurant, Sobah’s, the first restaurant in the Maldives to offer authentic Maldivian fare with a contemporary twist.”
I’ve added a tag for “Fusion” with this post as so many of the top properties are distinguishing their fare with the flai of inventive combination.
Fusion is a fun way to blend diverse flavours and culinary traditions for exciting new tastes, but LUX North Male Atoll’s INTI restaurant is probably the most diverse combo we have come across – Japanese and Peruvian.
Before you think someone just threw a couple of darts at a map, it turns out that Japan and Peru have a longstanding cultural connection. Peru was the first Latin American country to have diplomatic relations with Japan in 1873. At the end of Peru’s War of the Pacific in 1884, the Chinese worker population had been greatly reduced and there was big demand for farming labour. Then when the First Sino-Japanese War ended in 1895, the Japanese economy was crippled and young farmers started looking overseas for opportunities. Rumours of gold, mild climate, rich soil and similar seafood cuisine added to the allure and influx.
LUX describes the establishment: “Savour octopus with black olive mayo, Tiradito breads and smoky guacamole – or take in a five-course fresh fish Cerviche tasting. Sip on an iced Peruvian beer, warm sake or Pisco sour as the smells and sounds of Peru and Japan stir the sensory feast.” We enjoyed a sumptuous meal which did meld the delicate traditions of Japanese sushi with bolder flavoured ingredients like the purple maki (see above).
The name “INTI” is the name of the Inca sun god. The décor of the dining area is a collection of suns – fusing the icon of sun god, “Land of the Rising Sun” and, of course, the Maldives’ own sun-infused splendour (where modern day sun worshippers flock).
Fusion is blends one culinary tradition’s recipes with another locale’s ingredients. The Maldives is no stranger to a range of fusions incorporating fresh reef fish, tropical fruit and Indian spices into familiar concoctions from around the world. Hideaway Beach’s “Samasara” restaurant goes a step further infusing the cultural show and drama of Teppanyaki with indigenous flavours. Their chef, Rahul, performs twice weekly at their over-water prime location. He yields the knives with characteristic dexterity, but the climax comes with the flaming grand finale not just in pyrotechnic drama, but dazzling flavours – the flambé fruit (watermelon, fruit, banana, vodka, anise star).
One of my all time favourite coconut delicacies is the “Tub Kim Krob” served at Ayada’sKai 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.
My fortnight tour of the Maldives identified 89 potential new ‘Best of Maldives’ features (to add to the 169 I have already posted and the further 94 that I have drafted in the wings). Over the upcoming fortnight, I will be featuring the first ‘Best Of’ pieces stemming from the trip. They might not be the biggest or most dramatic, just a sample of some my favourites.
Speaking of favourites, our favourite food of the trip was hands down the Italian-Fusion restaurant on Anantara Veli, Geckos. When I first was told about it, I was a bit sceptical. ‘So what is it? Pizza and sushi? What’s the fusion?’ And it is indeed the ‘fusion’ that makes it special. Executive Sous-Chef Ken explained that they use indigenous ingredients from both Japanese and Italian cuisine and do indeed ‘fuse’ them into novel renditions of familiar dishes and styles.
Yes, they have Sushi Pizza (the sushi is put on after it’s cooked and the pizza base is a thinner style). They have Italian pasta made with Japanese togorashi and nouri. Even the Italian garlic bread is accented with Japanese spices. I had the Teppanyaki pork on lemon grass and crab meat sauce which was stunning. The chef’s specialty is ‘Ebi Pizza’ made with prawns, crab, dry roasted seaweed, Japanese spices, Mishima yaksri
Ken even offers the guest recipes of any of the dishes you crave (my wife wants the recipes for the ‘Roasted sesame seed ice cream’ and ‘spiced salmon on Tagliatelle with wafu sauce’).