When it comes to food, the Maldives can take you on a gastronomical adventure of epic proportions. Our cuisine is as diverse as our culture and traditions.
The essential ingredients in our food preparation used to be coconut, fish, and starches. However, since the arrival of ancient traders, the scene changed dramatically
The traders' influence on our cuisine and food traditions paved the way for a unique culinary identity. The Maldivian cuisine today is a blend of distinctive flavors. The food traditions reflect religious and traditional backgrounds as well. There are certain ceremonies during which one or two particular Maldivian food dishes is the showstopper. Then there are ceremonies where a carnival of food comes together to give your taste buds a ride of a lifetime.
One such traditional food experience unique to Maldives is called a “Keyn”. This is one traditional/cultural food experience which gives you the perfect opportunity to taste a little bit of everything that our cuisine offers. A Keyn is food served in a large circular traditional tray with a lid inside in which there is enough food to feed a group of around 12 people.
The food items in the Keyn consists of rice, curries, side dishes, salads, grilled meat, coconut cream, banana, rice and breadfruit puddings and delights. It is, quite literally, several courses of meals served in a mini buffet tray.
The ‘Keyn’ preparation originates from a religious ceremony called Maaloodhu, where reciters give out prayers or benedictions. In the early days Maaloodhu ceremony was held after naming a newborn, to celebrate certain religious festivals, to bless houses and its people. The Keyn is prepared and offered to the reciters and attendees after the Maaloodhu ceremony.
But over the years, Maaloodhu ceremonies gradually lost it’s significance, yet the tradition of preparing this tray of goodness called a Keyn consisting of all the Maldivian culinary delights has continued. Better yet, the Keyn has started to evolve and include more Maldivian delights than before. Now you see several types of savory, sweet delicacies laid out in this tray for the benefit of those who indulge in it.
Keyn trays are now prepared for Eid ceremonies, social gathering or political events, where they are presented to special guests in the islands. Sometimes the trays are delivered to the guest by a procession, accompanied with Boduberu (traditional drummers) marching, dancing with the tray and presenting it to the guest. It’s all very festival-like, but slightly subdued in comparison.
If you’re lucky, you may get to witness or even be the honorable guest receiving the Keyn tray. Some resorts, hotels and even some guesthouses do prepare and arrange Keyn meals for guests. Either way, the Keyn experience is quite the culinary pleasure.