While the main attraction in the Maldives is its pristine, white beaches and clear blue waters, its cuisine is one of the most flavourful in the region. The Dhivhei cuisine, as it is known, provides incredibly complex flavours that light up your taste buds in the best ways possible.
Meal Maldives | img via wikipedia commons
Traditional Maldivian flavours have strong influences from the neighbouring nations of Sri Lanka and India. Historically, the country depended heavily on locally sourced ingredients such as fish, breadfruit, millet and tubers. After the commencement of trade and international travel, visitors often left their mark on Maldivian cuisine, which masterfully combined foreign flavours with traditional ones.
Contemporarily, Maldivian cuisine is derived from three main ingredients: fish, coconut and starch. These flavours combine with various spices to create a sweet, savoury blend that has a pleasant kick to it. The cooking process, perfected and passed down the generations, plays a part in bringing out distinct flavours.
Coconut, or ‘kurumba’ as it is locally called, is found on almost every island in the Maldives and is such a vital part of the culture that the coconut palm tree is the official national tree of the country. Coconut is a very customisable ingredient, and its flesh can be grated into flakes, squeezed to obtain coconut milk, and even used as coconut oil to fry dishes in the coconut flavour.
Coconut is grated with an ingenious device called the ‘hunigondi’, a chair with a jagged steel blade attached to its arm where the inside of the coconut is held against and rotated, grating the flesh into a bowl placed directly below the blade. These grated flakes can be used in ingredients (or eaten raw, it’s delicious), or soaked in water and squeezed with a cheesecloth to obtain coconut milk. Coconut milk is a key part of Maldivian curries and is also used in mocktails.
As expected, fish is usually the star in most Maldivian dishes, be it street food or luxury restaurants in Maldives such as those within properties like Adaaran Prestige Vadoo. Tuna usually takes centre stage as the king of fish. The Maldives has a variety of tuna, such as skipjack tuna and yellowfin tuna which can be prepared cooked, smoked, or sundried, while other types of fish are usually grilled or deep fried.
Tuna is also typically used to make popular snacks such as bajiya, kulhi bokiba, fatafolhi, gulha, and kavaabu. A traditional Maldivian breakfast known as Mas Huni is made by mixing chilli, onions, and coconut with dried tuna.
Starches are used in most Maldivian meals and are a vital part of their diet. The most used kinds of starches are cassava, sweet potato, and taro. Rice is commonly used by grounding it into flour and boiling it, while fruits like breadfruit are eaten frequently as well.