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The Maldives is not only a paradise of tropical islands, but it also offers a delicious cuisine known as Dhivehi cuisine. Influenced by neighbouring countries like India and Sri Lanka, Maldivian cuisine features a blend of traditional flavours with its own unique identity. The cuisine is based on coconut, fish, and starches, resulting in a distinct taste of mild spiciness, delicate sweetness, and an exotic flavour. The cooking traditions have been passed down through generations, making Maldivian cuisine a must-try for any foodie visiting the Maldive islands.
In the Maldives, coconuts, also known as ‘kurumba’ in Dhivehi, are an essential component of the culture and cuisine. This is evident from the fact that the coconut palm has been declared the country’s national tree. The coconut is a main ingredient in Maldivian cuisine, and it is used in various forms, such as grated, shaved, and liquid coconut milk. It is also used as oil in deep-fried dishes.
The traditional Maldivian tool used for grating coconut is called the ‘hunigondi.’ It is a long low chair with a serrated steel blade at the end that shreds the coconut into a bowl below. The grated coconut can be used as is or soaked in water and squeezed to extract coconut milk, known as ‘kaashi kiru.’ Coconut milk is an essential ingredient in many Maldivian dishes, including curries, and is also used in fruit-based beverages and mocktails.
Fish is a crucial ingredient in Maldivian cuisine, with tuna being the most popular. The Maldives is home to various species of tuna, including a frigate, little tunny, skipjack, and yellowfin tuna, commonly used in fresh or dried dishes. Other fish species such as bigeye scad, mahi-mahi, mackerel scad, and wahoo are also popular and can be boiled or processed.
Tuna can be prepared cooked, cured, smoked, or sundried, while other fish are typically grilled or deep-fried. Processed tuna, known as Maldives fish, is used as pieces or shavings and is dry processed. Tuna curries use raw or still-soft processed tuna cut into small sections. Tuna is also used in snacks such as bajiya, kulhi boakiba, fatafolhi, kavaabu, gulha, and masroshi. Mas huni, a traditional Maldivian breakfast item, is made from dry processed tuna mixed with coconut, onions, and chilli. Another essential ingredient in Maldivian cuisine is the thick brown paste made from tuna known as rihaakuru.
Starches are a crucial component of Maldivian cuisine and are utilized in various forms, including tubers like cassava (dandialuvi), sweet potato (kattala), and taro (ala), as well as fruits such as breadfruit (bambukeyo) or screw pine (kashikeyo). Rice is also a staple, either consumed boiled or ground into flour. Boiled tubers and breadfruit are commonly eaten, while the screw pine fruit is typically consumed raw in thin slices.
Featured Cover Image: @saa_samaahath | Featured Images: Visit Maldives