Brunei

Brunei, officially the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace is a sovereign state on the north coast of the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia.
According to legend, Brunei was founded by Awang Alak Betatar, later to be Sultan Muhammad Shah, in the late 14th century. Upon landing he exclaimed, Baru nah (loosely translated as “that’s it!” or “there”), from which the name “Brunei” was derived. He was the first Muslim ruler of Brunei.
Hassanal Bolkiah, the current Sultan of Brunei is the second richest royal in the world, he has a collection of more than 5,000 cars. He was once the richest man in the world before being overtaken by Bill Gates in the 1990s. The IMF have ranked Brunei fifth in the world by GDP per capita at purchasing power parity and Forbes also ranks Brunei as the fifth richest nation, based on its petroleum and natural gas fields.

Most of Brunei is within the Borneo lowland rain forests ecoregion, which covers most of the island. It’s known for its beaches and biodiverse rainforest. It has 161 km of coastline on the South China sea, and it shares a 381 km border with Malaysia. The total population of Brunei is approximately 430,000, of which around 240,000 live in the capital Bandar Seri Begawan, which is home to the opulent Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah mosque and its 29 golden domes. The Istana Nurul Iman palace, also in the capital, is the residence of the Sultan of Brunei.

The cuisine of Brunei is similar to, and heavily influenced by the cuisine of neighbouring Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, with additional influences from India, China, Thailand, and Japan. Recipes I came across were Ambuyat (a sticky ball of starch dipped into a sour fruit sauce sometimes called ‘edible glue’), Daging Masak Lada Hitam (spicy slow cooked beef with potatoes and beans), Udang Sambal Serai Bersantan (chilli prawns with coconut milk) and Serondeng Pandag (Fried chicken with garlic wrapped in pandan leaves). I opted to make Bruneian Fish curry, which unfortunately didn’t turn out very well. The addition of whole spices towards the end of cooking was the recipe’s downfall and rendered it inedible. If you do feel the need to give this recipe a try, I would pound the spices with the chilli and garlic and add at the same time.

Rating: 2/10

Serves: 3
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes

500 grams white fish fillets (cut into 5cm pieces)
1½ cups coconut milk
1 tbsp tamarind pulp
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons ghee
3 onions (cut into wedges)
3 gloves garlic (pounded)
3-5 hot green chillies (pounded)
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2½ teaspoons cumin seeds
1½ cup chicken stock

Blend tamarind juice with ¼ cup coconut milk
Heat the oil in a pan, add the onions, garlic and chillies
Stir-fry till golden brown
Reduce heat, add remaining spices, stock and coconut milk
Boil gently till oil separates
Bring to rapid boil, add fish and tamarind mixture
Simmer 5 minutes, stirring carefully
Remove and serve hot with steamed rice

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Mauritius

We spent New Year’s Eve 2015 on the beautiful island of Mauritius, gorging on delicious seafood, sipping champagne on the beach and dancing the night away with new found friends! The Republic of Mauritius is situated in the Indian Ocean and with a population of 1.2 million, it has the highest population density in Africa. It is known for its beaches, lagoons and reefs, as well as it’s mountainous interior featuring Black River Gorges National Park, rainforests, waterfalls, hiking trails and abundant wildlife. Mauritius was the only known habitat of the now extinct dodo bird and the dodo is prominently featured as a supporter of the national coat of arms of Mauritius.

Mauritius has been ruled by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French and the British. It became an independent state in 1968, following the adoption of a new constitution. There isn’t an official language but English and French are generally used by government administration and business.

Mauritius received the world leading island destination award for the third time and world’s best beach at the World Travel Awards in January 2012. Around 1 million tourists visit each year. Lonely Planet’s highlights include Pointe d’Esny and Blue Bay, the capital – Port Louis, Chamarel, Rodrigues coastal walk and Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens.

The cuisine of Mauritius is a blend of Chinese, European and Indian influences. French cuisine has also grown very popular. Recipes I came across included Gajak (deep fried snacks), Fish vindaye (spiced fish served with rice, lentils and chutneys), Gateau patat douce (sweet potato cakes), Dholl puris (fried thin bread stuffed with ground yellow split peas), Cari Mutton (Mauritian mutton curry) and Chicken daube (chicken stew). I decided to make Cari Poisson (fish curry) which was pleasantly flavoursome.

Rating: 7/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes

2 fish fillets
1/2 aubergine, cut into strips or batons
1/2 medium onion, sliced
1/2 tsp ginger and garlic paste, heaped
1/2 tbsp thyme leaves, fresh or dried
3 curry leaves, finely chopped
1 tomato, chopped
2 tbsp medium curry powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped
1 tbsp spring onions, finely chopped
water
vegetable oil, for frying the fish and for cooking
1 & 1/2 tbsp cornflour

Pat fish dry, season with salt and pepper then coat in your corn flour evenly and fry in a pan with vegetable oil on medium heat till they turn a golden brown colour
Drain the fried fish slices on a paper towel to remove all the excess oil and put aside
Season the aubergine with some salt and pepper then fry in the same oil, drain the fried aubergine on a paper towel and put aside
In the same pan, add more oil if needed, and on a medium heat add in your sliced onions, thyme leaves, curry leaves and stir fry for 2 minutes, then add in the garlic and ginger paste, give it a stir
Mix the curry powder, tumeric, cinnamon, cumin and coriander with a little warm water so that it forms a paste and add to the pan and stir well
Add the chopped tomato and 50ml of water to start cooking the sauce, cover and cook on medium heat till tomatoes are done Progressively add 50ml of water in intervals if the sauce starts to dry out
The sauce should be creamy in texture, add in the fried fish with the aubergine and add warm water to preferred consistency, take care not to move the fish around too much or it will break
Taste for seasoning and add salt as needed
Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with coriander leaves and spring onions
Serve with steamed basmati rice

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Ingredients for Cari Poisson (fish curry)
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Cari Poisson (fish curry)
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Cari Poisson (fish curry)
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Cari Poisson (fish curry)
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Mauritius mountain
mauritius-beach
Mauritius beach
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Chamarel waterfall

Solomon Islands

The Solomon Islands is a nation of hundreds of islands in the South Pacific lying to the east of Papua New Guinea and northwest of Vanuatu. The major islands are Guadalcanal, Choiseul, Santa Isabel, New Georgia, Malaita and Makira (or San Cristobal). It is believed that Papuan-speaking settlers began to arrive around 30,000 BC and the first European to visit the islands was the Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira, coming from Peru in 1568.

Some of the most intense fighting of WWII occurred in the Solomon Islands. Many ships were sunk in the sea off Honiara and there are many WWII relics beneath’s the ocean’s surface that are a real treat for divers.

The Marovo lagoon is allegedly the world’s largest saltwater lagoon. It contains hundreds of beautiful small islands, most of which are covered by coconut palms and rainforest and surrounded by coral. Other highlights include the Vilu War Museum, Skull Island, Lake Te’Nggano (the South Pacific’s largest expanse of fresh water), Mataniko Falls and the central market of Honiara.

The cuisine of the Solomon Islands features fish, coconuts, cassava, sweet potatoes, ulu (breadfruit) and a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Dishes I came across were curried coconut and lime gourd soup, cassava pudding and papaya chicken with coconut milk. I opted to make fish curry with tomatoes which I served with a green salad. It was so simple, fresh tasting and very delicious.

Rating: 10/10

Serves: 2

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

2 fish fillets (I used red mullet, but snapper, tuna or even cod would work)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp medium curry powder
2 tomatoes, chopped
Juice of 2 limes
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat
Stir in the curry powder and cook for a couple of minutes, keep stirring
Stir in the chopped tomatoes, lime juice, salt and pepper and cook for a minute
Add the fish to the mixture, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes or until fish is cooked
Serve with green salad or steamed rice

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Ingredients for fish curry with tomatoes
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Fish curry with tomatoes
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Fish curry with tomatoes
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Fish curry with tomatoes
Mataniko Falls, Soloman Islands
Mataniko Falls, Soloman Islands
Marovo Lagoon, Soloman Islands
Marovo Lagoon, Soloman Islands
Solomon Islands
Soloman Islands

Maldives

The Maldives, paradise on earth, the most beautiful place on the planet. Well it is in my opinion anyway! I’m extremely fortunate enough to have visited the Maldives several times and I hope to visit many more different islands. The Republic of Maldives is made up of a chain of 26 atolls spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometres. There are 1,192 coral islands in total and the island of Gan is the largest. It is the smallest Asian country in both land area and population. It is also the planet’s lowest country with a maximum and average natural ground level of 2.4 and 1.5 metres above sea level. The UN’s environmental panel has warned that, at current rates, sea level rise would be high enough to make the Maldives uninhabitable by 2100. The government has pledged to make it carbon-neutral by 2019.

The waters of the Maldives are home to 1100 species of fish, 5 species of sea turtles, 21 species of whales and dolphins, 187 species of corals, 400 species of molluscs as well as over 145 crab and 48 shrimp species.
Only 185 islands are home to its 300,000 inhabitants. The other islands are used entirely for economic purposes, of which tourism and agriculture are the most dominant.
On 26th December, 2004 the Maldives were devastated by a tsunami. Only 9 islands were reported to have escaped any flooding, 14 had to be entirely evacuated and 6 were destroyed. It left more than 100 people dead, 12,000 displaced, and property damage exceeding $400 million. The 2004 tsunami is the deadliest in recorded history.

In terms of Maldivian cuisine, the local staple is fish, usually combined with coconut and rice. Popular dishes include Mas Riha (traditional Maldivian tuna curry), Hanaakuri Beef Hiki Riha (roasted beef dry curry), Kukulhu Riha (chicken curry), Mashuni (smoked tuna with coconut served for breakfast) and Kavaabu (fish fritters). I decided to make Dhon Riha (tuna curry) which we had with steamed rice. It had a delicate and tasty flavour.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 15 mins

300g diced yellowfin tuna
¼ tbsp turmeric powder
1 inch finely grated ginger
Salt
1 tin coconut milk (don’t shake it!)
1 cup finely grated fresh coconut (either from a whole coconut or you can buy a small tub of coconut pieces which you can grate)
1 finely sliced onion
½ tbsp cinnamon powder
7 tsp mild or medium curry powder
2 pieces of raw mango skinned
½ red chilli pepper

Blend the turmeric powder, salt and grated coconut into a smooth paste
Carefully open your tin of coconut milk and separate the thick cream from the thin juice into different containers
Pour one cup of thick coconut milk and one cup of thin coconut milk into a small saucepan, keeping another cup of thick coconut milk aside
Mix together the cinnamon, ginger and onion in a bowl, then put half of this in the pan with the blended coconut milk
Bring this to boil on a low heat
In a separate bowl, mix the blended grated coconut with the rest of the cinnamon onion mix and stir in the diced tuna
When the coconut milk begins to boil, add the tuna mix, curry powder, chilli pepper, mango and salt
Stir while cooking over a low heat
When it begins to boil, add the other cup of thick coconut milk and let it cook for a few more minutes
Serve with steamed rice

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Ingredients for Maldivian Dhon Riha (tuna curry)
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Maldivian Dhon Riha (tuna curry) with steamed rice
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Maldivian Dhon Riha (tuna curry) with steamed rice

 

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Approaching Lily Beach resort
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Bern and I at Lily Beach resort
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Lily Beach resort
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View from the seaplane
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Maldivian sunset
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Seaplane
black tip shark, Maldives
Black tip sharks
sea turtle
Sea turtle
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Maldivian beach