Although perhaps a less obvious benefit than fabulous views and personalised services; the food prepared for guests in the kitchens of holiday villas is one of the key ingredients for a sensational stay. Our Villa Expert, Max Vee, shares his villa tasting menu.
The best holidays are remembered for a variety of reasons. It might be the enchanting, relaxed location that stands out, perhaps simple an abundance of sunshine and fresh sea air. But one of the most often mentioned highlights (or downsides) of a vacation is the food. In fact, the quality and variety of food you enjoy on holiday can make or break the trip. One bad meal may spoil the whole holiday, especially if it leads to un upset stomach, and even a bland or overpriced dining experience leaves a lasting impression, which is why the best hospitality businesses invest so much in their food and beverage offerings.
For guests visiting countries like Thailand or Indonesia, the choice of delicious local delicacies is as varied as the spectacular scenery that surrounds them. No matter how many times I visit Phuket, for example, I always manage to taste something new, and often just as delicious as the food I raved about on my previous visit. Whether it's a simple coconut curry served at one of the "hole-in-the-wall" eateries in the Old Town, a gourmet delight that tops the Special's List at a high-end bistro or a simple home cooked meal served at my private villa – great taste always adds to the pleasure of the stay.
Unfortunately, for first time visitors it is not always quite so easy to sniff out culinary treats, especially on a short stay. There are so many menus to choose from on most popular tourist islands that the process of selecting the best can be something of a hit and miss affair.
That's when the third source on my list comes into its own – the home cooked meal at a private villa. In my experience, trying out local flavours is a much more satisfying experience when you can discuss the ingredients and even watch the dish being prepared. The adventure alone gives private villas the culinary edge.
Here are some delicious Asian dishes I have discovered while staying (and reviewing) private villas in Thailand and Bali, all of them mouthwatering creations that have since become favourites that I seek out at every opportunity.
I first tasted this exquisite southern Thai dish at a villa on Koh Samui in Thailand. prepared by the smiling cook who assured me she sourced the curry paste from an old man who used more than a hundred herbs and spices in his recipe. The thick, spicy tamarind and coconut sauce is a flavour I still crave if I don't get to taste it at least once a month.
Although not actually a Balinese dish; it was while staying at a modest villa in Canguu on Indonesia's most visited tourist island that I first enjoyed the rich, peanut sauce that gives this dish its signature flavour. Poured over vegetables, it's a filling but healthy meal that I find perfect for lunch by the pool.
Pla Nueng Manao
This speciality sauce is an invigorating combination of sour and spice that combines all the flavours Thailand is famous for. Adding to the taste appeal is the fact that it is served over tender steamed fish, which literally falls off the bone and retains enough of its fresh flavour to permeate the piquant.
It takes 48 hours to cook this authentic Balinese smoked duck dish and I would never have known it even existed if the cook at the villa I was staying in Seminyak hadn't recommended the dish as a "must-try" Bali favourite. Even though she nipped out and bought it for lunch, it has stayed in my top 10 list ever since.
Chicken Cordon Blue
Although this is neither a Thai or Indonesian dish, I first discovered the delicious combination at a villa in the Land of Smiles, where I later discovered it has long been adopted (from Switzerland) as a regular on the international menus of local Thai restaurants. Deep fried, breaded chicken breast stuffed with ham and cheese? Why didn't I think of that?
These are but a handful of the dishes you can enjoy at a private villa. The chefs are more than happy to make recommendations and in many cases can also adapt local flavours to guests' tastes and preferences. With a full menu of flavours to explore in the comfort of your own holiday home, dining out seems superfluous.
by MAX VEE