A Guide To Maldivian Cuisine
Have you ever wondered, what is Maldivian food like?
Today is International Food Day, so we thought, why not do a deep dive into marvellous Maldivian cuisine? Maldivian cuisine, also known as Dhivehi cuisine, is tropical, fresh, light, spicy and absolutely delicious.
The Maldives, geographically isolated from the world, results in limited nutritional resources especially as 99% of The Maldives consists of the ocean. These factors mean that traditionally, Maldivian cuisine essentially stood and still stands on the pillars of tuna and coconut, of which they have plenty.
This guide will explain to you the flavours of The Maldives, what Maldivian’s eat, what food is the locally grown in The Maldives and some popular Maldivian dishes - for you to look forward to on your next trip!
We hope that this blog post will broaden your knowledge of The Maldives and excite your taste buds for your next Maldivian getaway!
What are the flavours of The Maldives?
With a variety of tastes, textures and flavours, from finger food, ‘hedhikaa’, to rich, deliciously spicy curries, some may say that Maldivian cuisine is similar to Indian cuisine, with influences and flavours from Sri Lanka and the Middle East.
By embracing the local food, prepare yourself for spicy fish curry, fish soup, fish patties, fish snacks and more. For example, a favourite Maldivian breakfast, which is found everywhere, is called ‘mas huni’ (see photo below). It is a fresh and delicious mixture of tuna, onion, coconut and chilli, eaten cold with ‘roshi’ (like an Indian chapati) and black tea ‘sai’ (usually sweetened). We really recommend it!
So what are the flavours of The Maldives? Maldivian food boasts a distinct palette of mild spiciness, delicate sweetness, exotic taste and is prepared using unique cooking traditions that have been passed down through the generations of local island life in The Maldives.
Maldivian 'Mas Huni' Breakfast at the Sea House Café in Malé, Maldives
What do Maldivian’s eat?
You may have guessed it, the main meat Maldivian’s’ eat is fish - tuna to be more precise. Mostly skipjack tuna ‘kalhubilamas’ and yellow-fin tuna ‘kanneli’ are used in Maldivian cooking, due to their abundance in Maldivian waters. In fact, fishing plays a crucial role in the economy of The Maldives, being the second largest industry and source of income for the country after tourism.
Other popular fish for food include big-eye scad ‘mushimas’, mahi-mahi ‘fiyala’, mackerel scad ‘rimmas’, and wahoo ‘kurumas’. All sorts of fish are eaten in The Maldives and the fish is cooked in a variety of ways: fired, baked, smoked, boiled, dried, canned, grilled, sun-dried and barbecued after being freshly caught!
Maldivian’s also eat chicken 'Kukulhu', but this is traditionally eaten on special occasions and holidays. Apart from in resorts, you rarely see other meats on local islands. It is also important to note that alcohol and pork are contrary to Islamic culture, however, resorts in The Maldives do not lack these products.
Main Meals ‘Keun’
Noodles and rice, although both imported from abroad, are a favourite addition to meat dishes. Curries are one of the most popular dishes in Maldivian cuisine and vary from fish and chicken curries to vegetable curries, rich with spices and exotic flavours accompanied with the ‘roshi’ flatbread too.
Here are some of the most popular Maldivian curries:
‘Mas Riha’, a fish curry, made with fresh tuna, coconut, peppers, and plenty of fresh chilies, eaten with rice or roshi
‘Kukulhu Riha’, a chicken curry, filled with a different mixture of spices
‘Banbukeylu Riha’, a vegetarian curry, with breadfruit, chili, onion and coconut
Vegetable curries include delicious ingredients such as lentils ‘mugu’, eggplant ‘bashi’, pumpkin ‘barabo’, usually combined with coconut milk and a curry paste blended with onions, herbs, spices and chillis.
The most typical fish soup dish is ‘garudhiya’, a soup made from tuna, eaten with rice, lime and chilli. The soup is poured over rice, mixed up by hand and eaten with the fingers.
Afternoon Tea ‘Hedhikaa’
The concept of afternoon tea ‘hedhikaa’ is extremely popular in The Maldives, and consists of eating some savoury snacks along with black tea at 4pm. In cafés and hotels this is called ‘short eats’ – a choice of several snacks like:
Gulha (fried dough balls filled with fish and spices)
Bajiya (fish samosa with spices)
Keemia (fried fish pastry rolls in batter)
Kulhi boakibaa (spicy fish cakes)
Foni boakibaa (sweet cake)
Kavaabu (deep-fried snacks made from rice, tuna, coconut, lentils and spices)
Dhonkeyo Kajuru (fried banana cake flavored with rose water or vanilla)
Bajiya & Gulha snacks
Dessert ‘Foni Kaanaa’
An actual sweet dessert which is typical in The Maldives is sweetened sticky rice ‘Handulu Bondibai' a unique dessert made for special occasions like the birth of a child.
To freshen their palette, Maldivian’s traditionally eat Betel leafs ‘Bileyh’ and Areca nuts. The nuts are sliced into thin pieces and cloves are added and wrapped in an areca leaf, and then chewed as a whole!
What food is locally grown in The Maldives?
The Maldives geographically speaking consists of 99% ocean and 1% land - and of that 1% of land, approximately only 10% is cultivable for crops. Interesting right? Not much space for lavish crops.
You’ll find some of the following beautiful and tropical fruit trees and crops on local islands in The Maldives:
stone apples ‘kunnaaru’
sweet potatoes ‘kattala’
taro root ‘ala’
The importance of the Coconut
Coconuts are abundant and grown on every island in The Maldives. They are crucial to Maldivian culture and cuisine, for that reason, the coconut palm has been declared the country’s national tree. The coconut is used in a variety of forms: grated, shaved and liquid such as coconut milk and coconut oil. Coconut milk is an essential ingredient in Maldivian curries, and also used in a variety of fruit-based beverages. Coconut palms are essential to the Maldivian economy as they provide copra and coir, which consist of the most important exports after fish.
Can Vegetarians & Vegans eat local Maldivian food?
Yes, vegetarians and vegans will be fine in resorts and hotels as they are usually well prepared for different diets, however, on local islands finding vegan food will be a challenge. On inhabited islands fish and seafood dominate menus but restaurants will cater to your needs.
Vegetarian Noodles on a local island in The Maldives
Sooo, happy World Food Day! We hope you enjoyed this blog post, alongside discovering more about the culinary side to The Maldives. Let us know if you have any questions! Here's a little bit more about us, Maldives Secrets, and what we do:
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