No matter where you go in the Maldives, coconuts are one of the mainstays of our cuisine. You will find desiccated coconut in most of our most famous recipes and gastronomical experiences, such as mashuni and the fillings of savoury snacks (hedhika). Coconut oil is the preferred fat used in cooking and coconut milk and cream are used to add richness and a velvety texture to curries and other similar dishes.
What makes coconut a superfood?
Coconut is a food bursting with nutrients. They are rich in manganese (for better bones) copper and iron (for healthier blood) and selenium (antioxidant) among many others. The different stages of the coconut are used for different types of dishes, but its superfood status remains the same throughout.
Coconuts are dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegan-friendly. Coconut Sap is especially high in potassium, vitamin C, zinc, and B vitamins. Maldivians drink it in the morning to get started for the day, as the sap is harvested at sunrise. Coconut honey and sugar make great (and flavourful) replacements for the regular versions. Coconut oil can help boost brain function, support heart health, and aid in weight loss. Coconut water is one of the best for rehydration; it is high in potassium, low in calories, and completely free of fats and cholesterol. Maldivians often consume coconut water instead of electrolyte drinks for a healthy ‘pick-me-up’ energy booster.
What's special about how Maldivians use the coconut?
The best thing about coconut palms being a main source of ingredients for Maldivian gastronomy means that we learned to use everything in the palm. Depending on the stage of development of the coconut itself, Maldivians have about a dozen different names that define the stage it is at, with different ways of using it in our cuisine.
- The sap (rukuraa) makes a delicious and refreshingly tangy drink, extracted fresh every morning.
- The boiled-down sap makes dhiyaa hakuru or coconut honey, used in place of sugar in traditional cuisine. Coconut honey can be boiled down further to create Karu Hakuru (coconut sugar) with an almost butterscotch-like flavour.
- The immature coconut (kihaa) has soft and tangy flesh that is often eaten as a savoury snack dipped in rihaakuru. It is also one of the components of the famous snack ‘majaa’, literally translating to ‘fun’, a spicy and savoury mix of kihaa, rihaakuru, unripe papaya and green mangoes.
- The young coconut (kurumba) is the most famous iteration and requires no further explanation; coconut water is renowned worldwide. However, when Maldivians have coconut water, they create a concoction that incorporates chunks of the soft and sweet young coconut flesh, and sometimes a splash of coconut milk, making it an entirely exhilarating experience.
- Young coconuts become gabulhi if they aren’t harvested in time. The coconut water is less tasty at this stage, but the flesh becomes a little more firm and retains some juiciness. Gabulhi is the main ingredient of the well-loved sweet snack gabulhi boakibaa.
- If the coconut is allowed to stay even longer on the palm, it becomes kaashi. This is the stage where desiccated coconut is made, and the desiccated coconut is in turn strained to make coconut cream and milk. This is the most beloved stage of the coconut for Maldivians and is used throughout the nation in almost all food items to this day.
- Kaashi will sometimes sprout after being harvested, turning into what is called a Sprouted Coconut or Mudi Kaashi in Dhivehi. The mudi (coconut apple) is a delicious yellow-coloured mass you find inside the sprouted coconut as its preparation to become a new palm. This mudi is soft, juicy, sweet, and a delicacy in the Maldives.
- The last stage of the coconut is the kurolhi, a stage where the flesh has firmed and reduced by a large amount, without the earlier juiciness, as the coconut water will have fully disappeared by then. Kurolhi is one of the ingredients of maskurolhi (a mix of smoked or dried crumbled tuna, spices, and kurolhi) that is Maldivians’ favourite thing to eat with Rice Porridge (baiypen)
The Maldives, with our abundance of coconuts, our wealth of knowledge on using it, passed down through generations, and our long history of learning how to make the most mouthwatering dishes, is a prime location for experiencing the many benefits of this superfood. Whether it’s sipping some fresh coconut water on one of our powder-soft golden beaches, or enjoying a rich coconut-based curry, don’t forget to try this nutritious (and delicious) superfood at the Sunny Side of Life.