Location: joali being
The magnificent Maldivian archipelago is not just a beautiful destination with alluring vistas and laid-back lifestyle that everyone wants to enjoy. It is also home to a vast range of culinary delights, inspired by recipes passed down to our ancestors from seafarers passing through or chancing upon our shores from across the globe. Food has been a Maldivian love language, our ancestors poured their hearts and souls into creating unique delicacies derived from dishes around the world. Maldivian food is a diverse ensemble of flavours originating from the Mediterranean, Persia, India, Sri Lanka, and more. Our main ingredients consist of coconut, fish, spices, starches, grains, and vegetables.
Feasts are a huge part of our celebrations too, and letting our visitors be a part of this important aspect of our identity is something local communities and the hospitality industry take great pride in. Local resorts, guesthouses, hotels, and liveaboards always provide guests with options to try local dishes and drinks by regularly incorporating traditional and fusion Maldivian dishes in their buffet or à la carte menus. They also do special Maldivian lunches/dinners, on demand, which gives you the best opportunity to try all things local at your convenience. And the choices are extensive, from curries, side dishes, rice, bread, salads, sweet delicacies, and snacks of different flavours. Be it drinks, breakfast, dinner or lunch we got something for each mealtime or any occasion, with equally extensive options for vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free eaters.
Location: Meeru Island
Essential thirst quenchers
Local drinks are mostly organic and sourced literally from our backyard. For instance, the most famous local drink would arguably be “Toddy”, which comes from the palm trees that are found in abundance in our isles. Toddy is made by cutting into the inflorescence and collecting the sap of the coconut tree flower. The murky drink is slightly sweet. Once tapped, it immediately begins fermenting. It is one of the most refreshing drinks, as per most people who've gotten a taste of it.
In addition to Toddy, a few other must-try local drinks include sour mango juice (the sweet mango one is just as good), or Bilimagu (bilimbi) juice. We think both of these are distant cousins of lemonade. If you get the chance, don’t miss out on trying the seasonal kashikeyo (screw pine) juice. It’s freshly squeezed and the consistency and taste are quite good.
Oh, and another must-try drink while in the Maldives is jasmine-infused black tea with sugar. Most local households make this tea by boiling loose tea leaves with sugar, infused with jasmine, or by adding plain sugar with a dash of jasmine water. This tea is a must if you are trying local hedhika ( savoury and sweet snacks). Some local resorts/guesthouses serve these as welcome drinks, at their buffets and on demand.
Location: Kandolhu Maldives
Usually, your appetisers will come in either chicken, beef or something with veggies. But why not change this while you’re vacationing in the Maldives? Anything with locally sourced tuna is a game changer when it comes to appetisers. It’s the freshest tuna you will ever eat, caught sustainably using the one-by-one pole and line fisheries method. Resorts often have appetisers with tuna or with veggies, fruits, and leafy greens that are sourced straight from their gardens.
Another appetiser is the Maskaashi platter. This comprises sliced young papaya, unripe mangoes, coconut, and smoked fish accompanied with dates, peppers, and Rihaakuru (fish paste). Maldivians enjoy this as a snack during picnics or just at home. You can see if the resort makes these platters to enjoy during your afternoon swim or sandbank picnic.
Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner
Location: Landaa Giraavaru
First, breakfast. Our favourite items include Kulhimas (tuna made with spices), Mashuni (tuna and coconut mixture), and Rihaakuru, accompanied by roshi (Maldivian pita bread) or Huniroshi (coconut pita bread). Accompany this with jasmine black tea for a top-tier local breakfast experience.
Now, let’s talk about lunch and dinner. You must have heard of Garudhiya and Baiy (tuna soup with rice), the local dish that everyone asks you to try. But have you heard of “Masbaiy”? It literally translates to tuna (mas) with rice (baiy). Masbaiy is made by cooking rice with turmeric, fresh tuna, pepper, onions, spices and a bit of coconut oil. It is accompanied by satani (salad), fihunu mas (pan-fried/bbq fish with spices) theluli faiy (deep-fried moringa leaves with onion and sun-dried guntur chillies) and Rihaakuru (fish paste). You have to try eating this by hand for the best experience.
Location: Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives
For a lighter meal, try plain Baiypen with Maskurolhi. Baiypen is a rice porridge made with Raanbaa leaf (pandan leaf). It is accompanied by Maskurolhi, a mixture of coarse-blended dried fish, coconut (thinly sliced or blended with the mixture), and spices. A variation of Baiypen that we love is “Kulhi Baiypen”- the spicy sibling of the regular kind. Kulhi Baiypen is made with onions, smoked fish, ginger, garlic, pepper, cumin powder, grated coconut, uncooked rice, curry leaves, pandan leaf, chilli powder, sliced scotch bonnet, bilimbi, breadfruit, turmeric, and other spices. It’s bursting with flavour! So filling and delicious... add some lime juice to up the flavour game.
Satisfy your sweet tooth...
Location: Landaa Giraavaru
Now, this is our favourite part. We’ve got some unique desserts and sweet dishes to try.
Kiru boakiba (milk pudding) recipes have been passed down through generations and are a simple snack/dessert, usually enjoyed during evening teatime. It’s made with corn flour or finely-ground rice flour, coconut milk, and the secret flavourings that families like to keep hidden. Some resorts make fusion desserts with kiru boakiba or other local dessert-inspired pies and tarts. You must try it if you see it!
Next is Bondibai, particularly, Bambukeyo Bondibai (breadfruit sweet porridge). Maldivians make different versions of bondibai with rice, breadfruit, sago, cassava, and other ingredients. These are enjoyed by locals across the country during festivities such as Eid. All types of bondibai are best enjoyed with kulhimas (spicy fish) or smoked tuna.
Huni Hakuru is also a sweet snack that we really love. It's a sweet steamed dumpling, wrapped in a banana leaf, with a sugary coconut filling. It has a unique texture and is worth trying.
Location: Fushifaru Maldives
Now, the best thing to do to beat the heat in the Sunny Side of Life is to enjoy some ice cream or sorbet. Many resorts/hotels have locally made ice creams/sorbets available, please ask for local flavours such as anbu (mango), kashikeyo, boakuri falho (sweetened papaya) as well as watermelon flavour.
And there you have it, just a few items from our extensive Maldivian culinary delights that we believe you should absolutely try. Many resorts have versions of these items and more available, either as traditional recipes or fusion, but you should ask your servers for more information so you can choose something to suit your preference. So, if you see something Maldivian at the buffet or on the menu, don’t miss the chance to try something new.