Maldivian food can at first appear as a fairly limited affair but don't get tricked by first impressions as there is more to it than it seems. The country has received a lot of influence from Sri Lanka but has its distinct flavour.
They use peppers, chillies and curry leaves so expect hot and spicy food but very tasty, if you are a spice lover like me you will enjoy it for sure. Most meals consist of fish or meat combined with rice and coconut, tuna is also the star of a lot of their dishes and it is delicious!
One of the first things you will try in the Maldivian cuisine is Mas Huna, is the famous tuna salad with coconut the locals eat for breakfast along with chapati bread.
It has a fresh flavour, a bit spicy and it is the perfect combination for a nutritious breakfast, the protein from the tuna and the carbs from the chapati, the chilli that comes with the Mas Huni will refresh you from the inside out too. Mas Huni is made with tuna, onion, coconut and chilli all blended into a homogenous mixture, seasoned and served with chapati.
- Banbukeylu harisa: Curry of steamed breadfruit, chilli, onion and coconut.
- Bis keemiyaa: Pastry filled with tuna and hardboiled egg.
- Hedhikaa: Traditional snacks, or ‘short eats’, such as samosas, sold by small cafés.
- Garudiya: Fish broth prepared using chillies, onion and lemon juice.
- Rihaakuru: Brown paste made from concentrating down fish stock.
- Mashuni: Mashed tuna mixed with coconut, chilli and onion and served for breakfast with roshi.
- Roshi: Flatbread.
- Thelui mas: Spicy fried fish such as grouper, swordfish, jobfish or octopus.
- Kavaabu: Deep-fried snacks made from rice, tuna, coconut, lentils and spices.
- Dhon riha: Tuna curry with coconut, mango, cinnamon and ginger.
- Dhonkeyo kajuru: Fried banana cake flavoured with rose water or vanilla.
- Sai: Tea; a Maldivian favourite.
- Raa: Toddy tapped from palm trees, sometimes left to ferment and thus slightly alcoholic - the closest any Maldivian gets to alcohol.
Maldivian cuisine main ingredients
Traditional Maldivian food revolves around three main ingredients : coconuts, fish and starch containing grains and vegetables. You will find these three ingredients in most if not all dishes in the Maldivian cuisine.
Coconuts, called Kurumba in Divehi are grown in every island in the Maldives, the tree is so important has been declared the national tree in the country. Coconut is present in the Maldivian cuisine, either coconut milk, shredded coconut or coconut oil are the most common ingredients used from coconut.
Is no surprised that fish is also the star in the Maldivian cuisine, tuna being the king with different kinds of tuna that include skipjack tuna, little tunny, yellowfin tuna and frigate tuna. There are other fish varieties widely eaten as well such as bigeye scad, wahoo, mahi-mahi and mackarel scad. Tuna is prepared cooked, smoked or sundried, the Maldivians love their cured tuna!
Fish is prepared normally grilled or deep fried, there is no culture of eating raw fish in the Maldivian cusiine, although you will find it raw in sushi or tartar in many International resorts or in a tataki form its not typical from Maldives.
Another typical food in the Maldives that is present in every meal is what we would call side dishes in the Western culture that are mainly: rice, taro, cassava, breadfruit and sweet potato.
Curry, we couldn't talk about the Maldivian cuisine without mentioning curries as they are very common and the spicier the better as Maldivians love their chilies. The curry is made with coconut milk and a curry paste blended with onions, herbs, spices and chilly peppers. There are fish and meat curries and also vegetarian curries so there are choices for everyone.
Showcooking in Angsana Velavaru
In our stay at Angsana Velavaru we had a show cooking with the Chef Mujuthaba Ali from Khani restaurant, he was so kind to show us the secrets of Maldivian cuisine for us to be able to cook it at home. As we have already talked about the details of the Maldivian cuisine I will explain a bit more detail the two dishes we prepared and tasted in the cooking class.
We started preparing a dish called Kavaabu which consists of boiled yellow lentils, rice flour, grated ginger, turmeric, salt, lime juice, curry leaves, onions, cherry peppers, grated coconut, tuna and chili all mixed up together with an egg. It should come out an homogenous mass, once all the ingredients are mixed up together you divide the dough into small balls -what I call croquettes- and deep fry them until golden brown. They are very good croquettes and can be done with tuna, salmon or without fish if you prefer and they will be very tasty anyway!
The main dish we had in the showcooking was a Maldivian Chicken Curry, I love curries so it was great to see how the chef prepared it and what ingredients did he use. I learned first that if you fry the spices it will release its maximum flavour rather than just adding them to the sauce, great tip!!
We did a chiken curry but it can be done with beef or fish too and the process would be the same, the only thing that will change is the type of curry paste, for fish the green paste is normally used and for meat normally the yellow paste.
The ingredients are: onions, finely chopped ginger, green chilies, curry leaves, tomato paste, curry powder, cumin, cardamom, garlic, cinnamon sticks, turmeric, coconut milk, water, butter and salt.
What is the most difficult ingredient to find back home are the fresh curry leaves, but you might find dry ones at Asian or specialized shops. A good curry makes your worries go away, and we have tried many here in the Maldives!
If you are interested in making on your own Maldivian dishes I recommend you this Maldivian recipe page, please note that videos are not in English but you have the recipes writen in English.