The essence of Maldivian cuisine lies in the beauty of the culture in welcoming everyone to come in and have a taste. Almost every island has at least one restaurant and is home to many small tea shops, but most importantly, you will never run out of options because of the warm hospitality.
That being said, it is important to note that there are a myriad of specialties and variations from island to island alone than what usually lies on the surface. Essentially, the key ingredients and taste remain the same.
Addu Bon’di is made of sweetened coconut, jasmine/rose water and sugar (sometimes dhiyaa hakuru, liquid toddy sugar, is used too). It is a very popular delicacy which has a distinctive fragrance and is usually consumed as a snack; it can be had as a dessert too.
Naroh Falidha is a dessert made with breadfruit and flavored with jasmine water and dhiyaa hakuru. It is not commonly known amongst most Maldivians, but for the ones who are aware of this unique dessert, it can be referred to as the “Maldivian Donut”, owing to its resemblance to donuts.
Golha (gulha) Riha, fish ball curry, is a signature dish of Laamu Atoll. It is made by rolling the flesh of reef fish into small balls. Dhivehi Havaadhu (Maldivian curry paste), is typically used to flavor this dish along with flavorful herbs and spicy scotch bonnets. It is usually served alongside rice or roshi (chapati).
Muran’ga Baiy, or Moringa Rice, is one of the most special dishes available in Laamu Atoll. This rice dish is commonly served with Rihaakuru (fish paste), onion, chili and lemon while some prefer to have it with Garudhiya (fish broth), Fihunu Mas (grilled fish) and rice. It is up for experimenting to your heart's desire.
Kulhudhuffushi in Haa Dhaalu Atoll has a long held tradition of their own; visitors get a unique kind of edible gift to take back home. Haalu Folhi is a thin, almost transparent crepe-like local delicacy made with a few simple ingredients; water, rice, egg and sugar. It has a long shelf-life and can be enjoyed with milk or by itself. Locals and tourists alike wish to have a taste of this Maldivian treat at least once during their visit.
Not just Haalu Folhi, Kulhudhuffushi is also known for Masbon’di, a specialty dish made from ground rice, fish and fragrant spices, which are rolled into balls, wrapped in leaves and then baked to perfection. This is a dish popular during Eid celebrations.
The most widely used part of the Kashikeyo (screwpine) plant is its fruit. It has an aromatic taste, and can be used to make different desserts including the increasingly popular cake. In Baa Eydhafushi, Kashekiyo Foah is made by slicing and cooking the fruit into pulp. After adding sugar, jasmine water and scraped young coconut, it is cooked further. A bit of corn flour is then added to the mixture and heated until it forms a dough. When it cools down, it is molded into small balls the size of foah (areca nuts), hence the name.
Ruku Raa (toddy) is produced and collected from Raa Ban’dhi (collecting pots) left overnight to fill after the Raaveriyya (toddy tapper) carefully cuts a flower of the coconut palm tree and wraps it with leaves of screwpine. Ruku Raa is a sweet non-alcoholic drink which is used in various forms. By heating it, Dhiyaa Hakuru (liquid toddy sugar) is made and by further cooking this, a creamy paste known as Karu Hakuru is produced. These can be consumed with rice or even chapati.
Any tourist staying in an inhabited island should definitely take advantage of the opportunity to witness the preparation and try authentic local food.