A sprawling archipelago of 1,200 islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives has developed a unique culture and identity, and that includes its cuisine which is distinctly Maldivian. While the Maldives has strong influences in its food from countries such as India and Sri Lanka, the people of Maldives have developed flavours of their own with the ingredients available to them.

Over the centuries, the local cuisine has also evolved with influence from foreign trade and travel. With all these factors influencing the local cuisine, you'll find authentic Maldivian cuisine to be truly unique and delicious indeed.

The main ingredients that the people of Maldives often use in cooking are coconut, fish, chilis, and carbohydrates in the form of grains and tubers. The staple foods of the nation are rice and fish with other kinds of protein being eaten only on special occasions. When you get a taste of a traditional Maldivian dish, you’ll discover authenticity in ways you’ve never tried before. Let's take a look at the main ingredients integral in Maldivian cuisine.

Coconut

Coconut is widely available in the Maldives as it grows on almost every island in the country. In fact, it has even been declared the national tree of the Maldives thanks to its role in the local cuisine and culture. Known as "kurumba" in Dhivehi, coconut is used in many forms in all kinds of local dishes. It's often used in grated form, squeezed to obtain coconut milk, or "kaashi kiru", and used as coconut oil for frying.

Coconut milk is often used in Maldivian curries to thicken the broth and enhance the flavour. It's also used in drinks such as mocktails and other sweet beverages, and even in various desserts. Coconut water is also widely consumed by everyone in the Maldives from locals to tourists. When you taste this cool, revitalising drink, you’ll feel refreshed and almost like a new person.

Chilis

The Maldives is known for its spicy food thanks to influences from India and Sri Lanka, though Maldivian food is generally milder. There are many types of chilis used by people in the Maldives but one variety that's popular is the scotch bonnet chili, also known locally as "githeyo mirus". This chili is often considered one of the top five spiciest chili in the world and is regarded as the Maldives' "national chili".

However, if you don't deal with spices well, don't worry as milder dishes are available throughout the archipelago. Oftentimes, the locals will have a plate of raw chili with their meal, so anyone who picks some up and eats it will experience a spicy kick that’ll get them up and jumping with energy.

Fish

Being an island nation, fish is a staple protein at almost every meal in the Maldives, from breakfast to dinner. By far, the most widely eaten fish among Maldivians is tuna which is available in various species such as yellowfin tuna or "kanneli", frigate tuna "raagondi", and more.

Tuna in the Maldives is processed a number of ways including smoked, sundried, cured, and cooked in various dishes. In fact, if you visit the local market in Malé, you can even buy vacuum-packed smoked tuna to bring back home.

There are various other fishes that are popular here including mackerel scad, mahi-mahi, and various reef fish. Some popular fish dishes here include the local samosa known as "bajiya", a breakfast dish of shredded smoke tuna with grated coconut, onions, lemon, and chili known as "mas huni", and various curries.

Rice and Starches

Rice is a staple source of carbohydrates among people of the Maldives, but they also eat other forms of starches including sweet potato, cassava, yam, sago, and taro. Some unique fruits you can find in the Maldives are breadfruit and screwpine.

While breadfruit is often eaten boiled or deep-fried, the screwpine fruit is usually thinly sliced and eaten raw. Besides cooking their rice and tubers, Maldivians also make a flatbread called "huni roshi", a sweet sago puding called "saagu bondibai", and many more unique dishes that make life so much sweeter.