It is never a bad time to take a leap of faith and try your hand at a new dish, and in time for Eid this year, The Edition brings its readers beloved and familiar tastes from Maldives and around the region.
The Bilimbi plant, locally known as ‘Bilamagu Gas’, grows abundantly in the tropics and bears a small green fruit shaped like a stout cucumber, earning it the common name cucumber tree in some areas of the world. Found across the Maldivian archipelago, this fruit has earned its place in Maldivian cuisine since the olden days -- most often as a condiment, a unique sour taste that balances out the flavour of a traditional dish.
Most commonly, Bilimbi is added to curries and savoury dishes. It is also used as a base in chutney in place of mango and carrot. Moreover, Bilimbi can be salted and pickled to reduce its acidity which makes for a flavourful snack to munch on. Locals sometimes substitute ‘Bilamagu’ for lemons when they eat ‘Garudhiya’ (fish soup) with rice and ‘Lonumirus’ (chilli paste).
However, it seems quite uncanny to incorporate ‘Bilamagu’ into something sweet, as the fruit itself is sour and has a slightly acidic taste. Nevertheless, the people of Hanimaadhoo, Haa Dhaalu Atoll, makes a cool, refreshing concoction out of ‘Bilamagu’ -- a drink that will satisfy your thirst under the burning tropical sun.
Preparation time: five to 10 minutes.
A handful of Bilamagu
Pluck some ripe ‘Bilamagu’ off a healthy plant.
Chop them up into small cubes.
Transfer the cubes to a blender and add sugar.
Pour a glass of water and blend well.
Strain the mixture into a glass.
Best served chilled.
Several twists can be added to this easily prepared drink, which features a unique, refreshing, sweet and sour taste - somewhat like lemonade, but possibly even better! Those not too fond of sugar can sweeten it with honey for a healthier version of the refreshment, while those keen to experiment might try adding soda water instead for a bubbling glass of goodness.
More variants of the juice can be derived by adding other fruits into the mixture to make a smoothie. The mild flavour pairs well with many other tastes - for instance, a handful of mint leaves, substitute syrups and a fizzy top up later you could find yourself armed with a mojito that is unique, in a very authentically Maldivian-way!
However one chooses to make 'Bilamagu' juice, one thing remains clear. This drink will sate your thirst in summer heat waves and have you asking for more.
This Eid, we highly recommend kicking back and relaxing on the beach, a cool ‘Bilimagu’ juice in hand. Or perhaps, simply use it as a palate cleanser after a hearty ‘vacation-style’ meal, curled up in the comfort of your home.