When it comes to subcontinent vibe, Taj Exotica is the most authentic slice of India in the Indian Ocean. In fact, it by far the most popular resort for the Bollywood starlet with 5 out of 25 of yesterday’s list visiting Taj Exotica (no other resort has more than two). The character is not surprising as the Taj chain itself is based in India. The whole property is infused with Indian touches and flavours. For example, The Presidential overwater suite (photo above) features “Ghanta” bells considered to be an auspicious sound. Other India distinctions, I have already highlighted in previous Best of the Maldives pieces…
Maldives aren’t the only Laccadive country celebrating its National Day this week. Today’s is India’s own Republic Day. The icons of the subcontinent that are swinging through the Maldives with increasing regularity are the stars of Bollywood (check out “Why Maldives Was The Ultimate Holiday Destination For Bollywood”). The fashionista database includes these Indian film stars, but curiously the biggest Bollywood star to visit the Maldives is from…Sri Lanka (Jaqueline Fernandez with 16.4m Instagram followers).
Here are the top 25 stars to visit the Maldives ranked by Instagram followers. Instagram is sort of a popularity ranking. At the bottom of the post, I’ve included a table that also includes their Wikipedia word count which is usually more reflective of how much they have done)…
The water villa floors are not the only place you will find an exotic glass in the Maldives. Their world class wine cellars house some of the most exquisite vintages from around the world.
One might not think of the neighbouring subcontinent as a particularly noteworthy appellation. We fell into that same trap. We went to a champagne blind taste testing which featured a Indian sparkling wine called Omar Khayam (which at the time was stocked by ASDA). We were all expecting it to taste like yesterday’s vindaloo, but in the tasting everyone (blind again) rated it as one of the top bubblys. We mistook it for Moet. It turns out that Omar Khayan had gone into to partnership with Louis Roederer and produced some actual vintage runs with exceptional quality (Unfortunately the production of at least the vintage stuff has stopped and I can’t find any bottles anywhere. We did try some N.V. bottles, but frankly, they did merit more of a comparison to curry than champagne).
But you can find some top bottles at Taj Exotica from the budding producers. Especially Fratelli Wines in Nasik, India which has produced a selection “Specially matured and bottled for Taj Exotica”.
If you are not Instagramming yourself, then the next most popular subject is your food. And if you want to prepare something truly worth photographing, not to mention devouring, then I recommend Taj Exotica’s house speciality Butter Chicken.
Maybe the best curry I have ever had (Maldives, London, New York or elsewhere) Our daughter Isley’s favourite Indian dish, it was one of our favourite dishes of the 2016 tour. So creamy and perfectly spiced to warm your mouth with a glow of aromatic flavours. At $43, not cheap (though not the most expensive curry I have ever had. That was a $100 Lobster Curry in Soho).
As a holiday gift to you all, Taj has shared its recipe with you all in a Maldives Complete exclusive. Remember, the is to start with fresh, juicy, prime chicken breast.
7 pieces Chicken Tikka
150 ml Makhni gravy
3 grams Ginger (julienned)
10 grams Butter (softened)
5 grams Coriander Leaf (chopped)
2 grams Kasoori Methi (powdered)
10 ml Fresh Cream
2 grams Sugar
Heat butter in a pan.
Add ginger and saute.
Add cooked chicken tikkas and toss for a few minutes
Add makhni gravy and allow to boil
Add salt, sugar, kasoori methi powder and fresh cream allowing to cook for a few more seconds.
Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot.
If you can’t get to the Indian Ocean these holidays, at least get a taste of it at home.
Lori’s not a big fan of sushi, so when we go eat Japanese (which with our son Chase’s interest in Japan is not that uncommon), she always opts for the tempura. And it is one of my favourite dishes as well. Fried food without the heaviness of most western fry-ups because the rice flour lightens the batter. While originally a staple of Japanese fare, it’s made its way onto the tables of other cuisines (our local Thai serves a delightful tempura squid). But despite two decades of travelling to the Indian Ocean, I had never sampled Indian Tempura until our visit to Velaa. And not only was it something new, it was something exquisite. The “Indian” style adds turmeric to the batter, which is a bit firmer. And the item was “Soft Shell Crab with Tamarind Chutney” ($38) which was a distinctive fare in any style.
As it happens, this recipe was featured at another resort, Coco Bodu Hithi’s gourmet extravaganza “Savour 2015”, gut this was a one off event.
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).
Neighbouring India has its national Republic Day this weekend as well (today in fact). And if you want to celebrate with a distinctively Indian spa, then Gangehi’s “Ginger Spa” is the place. The striking facility is made up of cottage taken apart from Kochin in south of Indian and re-assembled (also, the Library on the island is a similar re-assembled building from Kochin). Aruvedic ingredients like oils and incense imported from India and offered in treatments provide by Ratheesh (see photos), the resort masseur also from India.
One of the most common body-and-spirit philosophies from the Indian Ocean region is ‘Ayurveda’. Translated as “the knowledge for long life,” it is a Hindi-based system of traditional medicine and as such it is typically found at the resorts spas in the form of treatments. But, at Gili Lankanfushi you can start your day with an Ayurvedic boost. An Ayurvedic ‘Refresher’ drink which is included as part of the breakfast buffet. They had tonics for Balance, Energy, Well Being, Cleansing, Cardiac, Detoxifying, and Rejuvenating. Sort of the same concept as a morning pro-biotic drink, but with different concoctions.