Move over, drumstick. Make way for the jackfruit. The bulbous porcupine-looking fruit is having a major superfood moment. “Babe, the jackfruit tacos at Cantina Lanka are amazing,” said The Yogini, looking very Zen after our one-and-a-half hour yoga class. We were in Galle, at the very beautiful Sri Yoga Shala. The Yogini, an Indian American who has been living in Colombo for a decade, was updating me on all things hip and happening since I had last visited four months ago. Amidst bites of her big banana and seed bowl breakfast at the Shala, which is nestled in the middle of a jungle and attracts fantastic yoga teachers and practitioners from around the world, she told me about the new taco joint in Ahangama, widely considered the best surfing area in Sri Lanka.
Cantina Lanka is owned by a German who lives in Hong Kong, but loves holidaying in this island nation. It is just one of the many great restaurants popping up along this stretch, a vacation paradise. When I hauled the family for lunch — where we excitedly over ordered — the verdict for the jackfruit tacos was a big thumbs up. Not so much the cauliflower tacos, which the kids looked at with contempt.
Anyway, back to the humble jackfruit, which is experiencing a resurgence amongst the health obsessed chic set. I had had jackfruit “steak” last summer in Bali at Bambu Indah, the eco-boutique hotel in Ubud founded by jeweller John Hardy. It is considered a saviour by climate change worriers, concerned as they are about the impact of growing vast amounts of wheat and corn. It is rich in protein, calcium, potassium and iron. It is super versatile. It can be a main dish, a dessert or both. I ate it in Sri Lankan curry at Cape Weligama, overlooking the breathtaking bay, and I ate it at the beautiful villa where we stayed in Galle. After years of shunning it in India, I am a convert. Maybe it took the Sri Lankan preparation for me to get used to it, but I am now an evangelist. It is delicious and substantial, something we vegetarians constantly strive towards in our meals. Some even think it tastes and looks like pulled pork, not that I would know.
The jackfruit is just one more reason why Galle and its surroundings is fast becoming popularly posh. Don’t laugh. Food is an integral part of health and wellness related travel, and 2018 has been declared as a “new era of transformative travel,” according to The Global Wellness Summit’s report. An article in Travel and Leisure magazine states that travellers took 691 million wellness trips in 2015, up from 104 million in 2013. Sri Lanka is a growing destination for such travel. With its boutique hotels, beach front villas, untrammelled natural beauty and a western expat community with its fitness first motto, locals hope to woo more tourists every year. After peak season in December, it is actually a relief to be here in this low season, when all the jet setters have gone and it is just a small community of locals and year-round residents.
Sipping on a glass of Veuve Cliquot, I marvelled at the magnificence of this part of the world as I stared out at the Indian Ocean. The intense monsoon-expectant waves were kissing the beach in front of the villa we were luxuriating in, courtesy The Yogini and her charming husband, an Indian-origin Sri Lankan. Their house is stupendously located and designed. Every room overlooks the ocean — it will be heart-breaking to leave it.
Yes, I am finally feeling free and relaxed after submitting the manuscript of a book I am co-authoring with my friend Mallika Kapur, a Hong Kong-based journalist (God bless Skype and WhatsApp) on women behind the scenes in Bollywood. What better place to unwind, detox, and de-stress than southern Lanka? And on top of it, I added another superfood to my diet, one that is wildly abundant (and cheap) back home, too. The jackfruit may not look attractive on the outside, but why judge a book by its cover?
This fortnightly column tracks the indulgent pursuits of the one-percenters.
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