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Maldivian Food and Cuisine

Dining in the island state

Traditional Maldivian food revolves around three main ingredients : coconuts, fish and starch containing grains and vegetables.
These base ingredients have been widely available since the first people have settled on the coral islands and have been thoroughly refined throughout the years.


...are grown on every inhabited island within the Maldives and have also spread to many of the uninhabited ones. The coconut tree is so important in the Maldivian culture that is has been declared the national tree of the Republic of the Maldives and it even features in the country's coat of arms.
As a food and rehydration source it has been widely implemented into the Maldivian cuisine. The meat of the nut is used in fresh or dried and grated form, coconut milk is refined from grated coconut meat which is soaked in water and pressed, and coconut oil is derived from the nut which serves many uses; amoung them the preperation of food by frying or deep frying.

Fish... the obvious choice of nutrition for an island nation. The Maldivians favorite fish include skipjack tuna, little tunny (latti), yellowfin tuna (kanneli), frigate tuna (raagondi), bigeye scad (mushimas), wahoo (kurumas), Mahi-mahi (fiyala) and Mackerel scad (rimmas). The fishes are prepared either fresh or dried, whereas the eating of raw fish has no tradition in the Maldives.
Fish is also refined into various products, for example "Rihaakuru". This is a fishpaste created through the time consuming reduction of tuna scraps and salt in water. "Rihaakuru" is consumed throughout the Maldives and often eaten pure along with rice, taro, roti or breadfruit.

Starchy items

Westerners would classify these as side dishes yet no Maldivian meal is complete without them and they may as well be eaten without other "main dishes". Cultivated and eaten in the Maldives are: rice, taro, sweet potato, cassava, breadfruit and screwpine. Rice, taro and breadfruit are boiled while the screwpine is usually eaten raw.


A definite cornerstone in the Maldivian diet

Maldivian curry is a common dish and may be prepared with any meat or vegetables available.

Curries are a very common meal in the island nation and, as in other asian nations, is prepared with coconut milk and a curry paste blended from roasted onions, chilli peppers, herbs and spices.
The most popular curry in the Maldives is the Mas riha. A tasty curry made with tuna, onions, roasted chillies, coriander, fennel, cumin and garlic. Often a pinch of sourness is added by squeezing some fresh lime juice into the dish.
Kukulhu riha, the chicken curry, on the other hand is cooked using a different combination of spices but is less common than Mas riha as fish protein is more widely available than poultry.
We have listed some recipes in the lower part of this page.

Cured tuna

The Maldivians favorite fish

Maldive fish is a local specialty which is cooked, smoked and sun dried after to make it durable in the tropical climate. Maldive fish may be kept indefinitely without refrigeration.

Tuna are caught with the ancient pole fishing technique throughout the Maldives and processed to make them last without refrigeration. This has been a necessity for the Maldivians for a long time as electricity and freezing techniques have only recently been introduced.
After being caught the tuna is gutted and stripped of its head and spine. The fillets are halfed lengthways into four total pieces per fish called ari. Then the pieces are processed in a combination of boiling, smoking and is finally sun dried. Using this method will make the fish durable for a very long time yet it will be hard as wood.
Maldivian fish prepared in this way is used in a wide variety of dishes all over the Maldives. In soups it may be used as thickener or added meat, and with pestle and mortar the tuna can be broken up and spliced up to be added to soups or curries, or be worked into pastes, condiments or relishes.
"Garudiya" the clear Maldivian fish broth is also prepared with tuna. Both fresh and dried fish are used.

Breakfast in the Maldives

A selection of Maldivian tastes to start into the day.

Mas Huni

Mas Huni the Maldivian tuna salad with coconut is famous the world over. The fresh and fruity taste makes this dish a must to try while in the Maldives.

Mas Huni is a very typical and widespread Maldivian breakfast dish. It contains tuna, onion, coconut and chilli. The ingrdients are blended into a homogenous mixture, seasoned and served with freshly baked Chapati.
To prepare two portions of Mas Huni you will the following ingrdients:

  • 125g tuna (ideally smoked & dried, canned is ok as well)
  • 125g of aged grated coconut
  • 1 diced shallot (medium size)
  • lime juice to taste (approx. 1 lime [may be substituted with lemon])
  • 1 chopped chilli (remove seeds for less spiciness)
  • a few chopped coriander leaves - to taste (optional)
  • salt to taste

Mix the onion, lime juice, coriander and chilli. Then add the tuna and keep stirring. Lastly add the grated coconut and salt the dish to taste.
The Chapati may be substituted with naan bread, tortillas or any other flatbread.

Baraboa Mas Huni

The vegetarian version of Mas Huni made with pumpkin instead of tuna. A tangy fresh salad with the addded crunch of grated coconut to bring the Maldives to your home.

If you do not like tuna or don't eat fish for other reasons there is a vegan option of Mas Huni which is prepared with Pumpkin: Baraboa Mas Huni

  • 400g pumpkin
  • 200g grated coconut
  • 1 diced shallot (medium size)
  • lime juice to taste (approx. 1 lime [may be substituted with lemon])
  • 1 chopped chilli (remove seeds for less spiciness)
  • 2-4 curry leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

Dice the pumpkin and boil until it starts to soften. Mix the onion, lime juice, chilli, curry leaves, salt and pepper. Mash the pumpkin and add it to the mixture. Then fold in the coconut. Serve with flatbread (Chapati).


Deep fried dough balls filled with the tasty Mas huni tuna salad. A favorite snack which is served with various chutneys and dipping sauces such as Rihaakuru.

Gulha are bitesized deep fried dough balls filled with Mas Huni (Recipe above). To prepare about two servings of Gulha you will need:

  • prepared Mas Huni (Recipe above)
  • 1 cups flour – sifted
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • Warm water

Mix the oil, salt and flour. Then add water while kneading the dough until soft but not sticky. Separate the dough into palm sized pieces about 0.5 centimetres thick. Roll the Mas Huni into walnut sized balls, cover them with dough and close the dough layer around the filling. Deep fry until golden brown.

Mas Roshi

Mas Roshi are prepared similar to Mas Huni though the filled dough balls are flattened and pan fried.


Roshi is a Maldivian flatbread which is served with curries, Mas Huni and many other dishes.

Roshi are a famous Maldivian flatbread which can be eaten with any Mas Huni or Curry. To add flavor you may substitute some of the flour for grated coconut meat.

  • 1 cups flour – sifted
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • Warm water

Mix the oil, salt and flour. Then add water while kneading the dough until soft but not sticky. Leave the dough for about an hour before forming equal sized balls and flattening them with a rolling pin. Roast the flattened dough on an oiled metal surface until moderately browned.

Lunch & Dinner in the Maldives

The Maldivian cuisine shows strong influences from neighboring countries like India and Sri Lanka. Rich and spicy curries as well as fish in all variations dominate the main dishes served in the island state.
Though the following curry recipes may seem similar they do have distinguishable differences depending on their main ingredients.

Vegetable Curry

Maldivian vegetable curry

Though fish and chicken curries are most typical for the Maldives, vegetarian dishes are no stranger to the islanders dinner plates. The following recipe decribes a vegetable curry for a serving of two.

  • 1 small potato or sweet potato
  • 30g pumpkin
  • 30g green beans
  • 30g carrots
  • 1 medium shallot
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp. ginger slices
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 green chili
  • 3-4 curry leaves
  • 1 pandan leave
  • ½ tsp. Turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste

Cooking the curry is as easy as pie. Simply chop all the ingredients into bite sized pieces and pour them into a cooking pot and start to cook it for about 15 to 20 minutes. As soon as the liquid starts to thicken from the released starch the dish is ready. Traditionally curries are served with steamed rice and Roshi.

Fish Curry

Maldivian fish curry

The main source of protein in the Maldives is fish. Almost every meal contains the widely loved tuna. So it is no wonder that a curry exists with fish meat as main ingredient. This recipe is meant for a serving of two.

  • 100g fish (is doesn't have to be tuna)
  • ½ tomato
  • 1 medium shallot
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ½ tsp ginger
  • ⅓ tbsp fish curry powder (Maldivian or Indian)
  • ⅓ tsp turmeric powder
  • ⅓ tsp cumin powder
  • 2-4 curry leaves
  • ½ pandan leave
  • ½ Small cinnamon stick
  • ½ cardamom
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp coconut cream
  • Water
  • Salt to taste

Though the fish curry is slightly more demanding to cook it does not need a proffesional chef to do so. First chop the fish and vegetables into bite sized pices and chop the garlic and ginger finely. Then heat the oil in a saucepan and sauté onion, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, curry and pandan leave, until all ingredients are lightly browned. Now add the tumeric, cumin and curry powder and cook the mixture for another 2 minutes. Add tomatos and leave to simmer for 15 minutes. Then add a cup of water and the fish and cook the curry until the fish is tender. At last add the coconut cream to thicken the gravy and salt and pepper to taste.

Chicken Curry

Maldivian chicken curry

Even though the ingredients are pretty similar to the fish curry, the chicken curry offers a quite distinctive taste. The following ingredients will amount for a double portion of chicken curry.

  • 100g chicken (any part will do)
  • &fraq12; tbsp chicken curry powder
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 medium shallot
  • ½ garlic clove
  • ½ tsp ginger
  • ⅓ tsp turmeric powder
  • ⅓ tsp cumin powder
  • 1-2 curry leaves
  • ½ pandan leave
  • ½ Small cinnamon stick
  • ½ cardamom
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp coconut cream ( or coconut milk)
  • 1 cup Water
  • Salt to taste

Cut the meat and vegetables into bite sized pieces and finely chop the garlic and ginger. Heat the oil in a saucepan and sear the chicken meat for a couple of minutes. Next add onion, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, curry and pandan leave and fry until the ingredients are lightly browned. Add the turmeric, cumin, curry powder and tomatos and cook the mixture for a quarter hour. Lastly add water and coconut milk to cover the ingredients and simmer until the gravy thickens. Serve the curry with steamed rice and Roshi.