Friday, October 12, 2012

Maldivian Cuisine

The Republic of Maldives is an island nation with a population of approximately 300,000. The people of Maldives are known as Maldivians (‘Dhivehin’) and the language they speak is called 'Dhivehi'. The language and the ancestry of Maldivians originate from ancient Sanskrit and South India. Maldives is a country with a land area of about 300 sqkm. Most of its territory is covered by the Indian Ocean. Due to the limited availability of cultivable land for agriculture, and very few natural resources, Maldivians very much depend on their surrounding seas for food. Varieties of fishes and seafood constitute an integral part of the Maldivian cuisine. 

Tuna: an important ingredient in Maldivian cuisine
The cuisine of Maldives is a rich assortment of traditional cuisine and comprises three main components: tuna, coconut and rice. In the past, Maldivians depended on fish and coconuts, breadfruit, millet and tubers. Over time, foreigners influenced the cuisine of Maldives, as the country lay on an important path of ancient trade and travel. The cuisine of Maldives, with its foreign influences, is a distinctive blend with its own flavours, symbolizing a unique culinary identity. In addition to fish, coconuts and rice, local dishes are heavy on vegetables and spices. Maldivians use fresh ingredients in their cooking and follow their finest traditions to make a wide range of delicious dishes.

Lunch is served! (Image source)
This article includes five unique Maldivian recipes. 

Mas huni’ (tuna and coconut mix) 

Mas huni’ is a blend of tuna, coconut and chili, which is loved by all Maldivians. It is more like a salad and requires very little time to prepare. This dish is eaten for breakfast with ‘roshi’ or chapatti and black tea. 

Mas huni (Image source)
What you need: 

1 medium sized onion, thinly sliced 

1 chili pepper (Dorset Naga/ Chinese capsicum/ ghost chili) finely chopped 

1 cup diced smoked tuna (alternatively use 1 can of tuna chunks) 

1 cup grated coconut 

Juice of 1 medium sized lime 

Salt to taste 

How to make: 

Squash the onion and chili pepper with the lime juice and salt. 

Add the tuna and mix well. 

Then mix in the coconut. 

Taste the coconut-tuna mixture; add more salt or lime juice to suite to your taste. 

Serve with ‘roshi’ (Maldivian thin bread) 

Kulhimas’ (chili tuna) 

Kulhi’ in Dhivehi, means hot or spicy and ‘mas’ means fish. Every single Maldivian enjoys this dish. It is easy to prepare and simply delicious. This dish can be eaten for breakfast with ‘roshi‘ or chapatti, or for dinner with ‘roshi’ or rice. 

Kulhimas (Image source)

What you need: 

500 g fresh tuna cut into small cubes (1 cm x 1 cm) 

2 medium sized onions thinly sliced 

1 tsp grated ginger 

4 cloves garlic crushed or finely chopped 

1 Chili pepper (Dorset Naga/ Chinese capsicum/ ghost chili) chopped 

3 pods cardamom (cut at both ends) 

2 tsp chili powder 

2 tbsp fish or chicken curry powder/paste 

¾ cup thick coconut milk 

½ cup water 

2 curry leaves (de-stemmed) 

4 pieces of fragrant Pandan leaves cut into 1 inch pieces 

3 tbsp cooking oil 

Salt to taste 

How to make: 

Heat the oil and fry the onions, garlic, ginger, curry leaves and pandan leaves until the onion becomes transparent. 

Add the chili powder, curry powder/paste and salt while stirring. 

Add the tuna and toss until all tuna pieces are well coated. 

Add chili pepper, cardamom pods, coconut milk and water and cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, until tuna is cooked. 

Serve with ‘roshi’ or rice. 

Garudhiya’ (Maldivian fish soup) 

From time in memorial, Maldivians have been fishing and drying or smoking tuna. The fishes that have been smoked are used to make dishes like ‘mas huni’. Raw tuna is used to prepare ‘garudhiya’. This dish is highly valued and eaten by Maldivians almost every day. 

Garudhiya (Image source)

What you need: 

250 g fresh tuna 

1 small onion, diced 

1 tbsp whole pepper corns 

1 curry leaf (de-stemmed) 

1 L of water 

Salt to taste 

How to make: 

Cut the tuna into small cubes. 

Pour the water into a pot. 

Place all the ingredients in the pot and cook until the water starts boiling. 

Reduce the heat and remove the scum from time to time. 

When the fish is cooked, turn off the heat. 

Serve hot with rice, lime and chili. The soup can also be enjoyed as it is with a little lime juice and chopped chili added to it.

Handulu Bondibai’ (sweetened sticky rice) 

A special dessert made by the people of Maldives for the most special occasions like the birth of a child. This dish is eaten with ‘kulhimas’ or separately. 'Bondibai' is commonly prepared with rice; but it can also be made using sago or breadfruit. On special occasions, parcels of ‘Kulhimas’ and ‘bondibai’ are distributed to all households in the islands. 

'Bondibai' (Image source)
What you need: 

2 cups rice 

2½ cups sugar 

5 pods cardamom 

5 pieces of fragrant Pandan leaves cut into 1 inch pieces 

1 tbsp rose water 

5 cups water 

1 cup thick coconut milk 

How to make: 

Rinse the rice with cold water until water running off the rice is clear. 

Put the rice, water and coconut milk in a pan. Add cardamom and Pandan leaves and cook over medium heat. 

When the rice is cooked and all the water has evaporated, the rice should be almost soft (If the rice is too soft then it is not suitable for this dish). 

Add sugar and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Mix occasionally. The rice should be thick and sticky. 

Turn off the heat and add rose water and mix well. 

Kulhiboakibaa’ (fish cake) 

For hundreds and probably thousands of years, ‘kulhiboakibaa’ or fish cake has been a very special food for the Maldivians. It is made especially for occasions like festivals and feasts. Nowadays the fish cake is also eaten as a short-eat during evening tea. 

'Kulhiboakibaa' (Image source)

What you need: 

1½ cups rice, soaked overnight and coarsely ground into a thick paste 

3 cups smoked tuna, sliced (alternatively use 3 cans of tuna chunks) 

1 cup grated coconut 

2 finely chopped chili peppers (Dorset Naga/ Chinese Capsicum/ ghost chili) 

2 curry leaves (de-stemmed), finely chopped 

1 large onion, finely chopped 

5 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped 

1 tbsp grated ginger 

Juice of two limes 

½ tsp turmeric powder 

Salt to taste 

1 tbsp coconut oil or any other vegetable oil 

How to make: 

Squash the onions, garlic, ginger, curry leaves, chili, lime juice, turmeric powder and salt. 

Add the tuna, followed by the coconut and mix well. 

Then add the rice and mix. Now the mixture will be a thick sticky paste. Taste it and add more salt or lime if needed. 

Spread coconut oil on a baking pan. 

Place the prepared paste in the pan and spread it evenly. 

Bake at 180˚C or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. 

(Traditionally, Maldivians use a large cooking pot with a flat lid. They make an open fire using coconut shells. After the coconut shells have burnt and there is no flame, they place the pot on the fire and put some of the coconut shells (which are still burning) on top of the lid. This way, the cake is baked simultaneously on its top and bottom.)

1 comment:

  1. Every Food items looks tempting.
    Can't wait to visit Maldives.
    Want to try all of this with family on Next Vacation.