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Updated by Joanna James on Jun 23, 2019
Headline for Maldivian Ingredients – The Secret behind the Country's Appetizing Dishes
Joanna James Joanna James
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Maldivian Ingredients – The Secret behind the Country's Appetizing Dishes

Surrounded by the ocean on all sides and with no capability to grow many crops or livestock, the Maldivians have to make do with a different array of ingredients than what we are accustomed to.



Coconuts are one of the very few crops that can be grown in the Maldives. The difficulty in growing crops is due to the lack of proper soil. However, coconut trees have no problem growing in beach sand and can be found on almost every island. The trees are so widespread that it is even the national tree of the country and makes an appearance in the Maldives' coat of arms. Coconuts play a key role in Maldivian cuisine, both as an ingredient and as a rehydration source. The meat inside the fruit is either grated out or used right after breaking the nut. This meat is mixed with water to make coconut milk which is a key ingredient of any dish at a beach restaurant in the Maldives and at households. Sometimes the coconut is used to make coconut oil, which serves as a base to fry food.



Surrounded by an ocean that houses an uncountable array of marine species, this ingredient should be no surprise to anyone. Almost every dish in the country's cuisine includes fish in some form. Don't believe me? Take a look at the menu at a resort such as Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas and try to find a dish that does not involve fish. Rare catches like skipjack tunas, little tuna, yellow finned tunas and Mahi Mahi's are made use of on a daily basis. The fish is sometimes cooked fresh while sometimes it is dried to make a variant called Maldivian Fish. The fishermen's catch is also refined into other forms. For example take Rihaakuru, a spicy fish paste that is made by eroding tuna in salt water. Rihaakuru is commonly served as side dish or as a meal with rice or roshi.


Starchy fruits

These include crop products like breadfruits, cassavas, taros, screw pines and sweet potatoes and of course, rice. Yes, these are considered side dishes in the Western world but this is hardly the case in the Maldives. Sit down for an authentic Maldivian meal and chances are high that one or more of the dishes will have used some of these items as their ingredients. Most of the items – excluding rice – can be easily grown in the tropical climate of the country and the Maldivians have learnt over the years how to take the best out of these items. Rice, taros and breadfruit are boiled before they are consumed while screw pine is generally consumed raw.


Spices and vegetables

The country can not grow spices and they are imported in from the neighbouring countries of Sri Lanka and India. The spices used the number in their dozens but some of the most common spices are curry leaves, lemon grass, chilli, coriander leaves, lime and shallots. Vegetables used include green beans, pumpkins and carrots.