A taste of culture: discover the flavours of the Maldives

16th May 2022

Maldivian cuisine is as vibrant as our culture. With centuries of history and influences from all across the globe, the food we eat reflects the diversity of our heritage. As a nation of over 1,000 islands, it’s perhaps not surprising that fish is a huge part of Maldivian meals, but we also incorporate a number of ingredients that you probably won’t find at your local grocery.

Exotic ingredients

Rice, sweet potatoes and yams are key ingredients in a lot of local dishes, but you might also find some tropical fruits that you don’t recognise on your plate. Screwpine and breadfruit are both great examples of local produce that you might find in your meal. Breadfruit is most often boiled, steamed or deep-fried, while the screwpine fruit is best when it’s thinly sliced and eaten raw.

Fantastic flavours

Lots of Maldivian dishes are packed full of flavour. From salty rihaakuru (a paste made from tuna) to spicy curries and dhaals, you’ll find each dish has its own unique taste. Because of the bold flavours, you’ll find that the accompaniments and sides will be much milder. Rice and flatbreads are served alongside many dishes – perfect for soaking up sauces and broths!

Traditional dishes

There are plenty of local dishes to try during your stay. Some originated right here in the Maldives, but we’ve also adopted foods and flavours from our neighbours like Sri Lanka. Some must-tries include:

  • Muguriha – This dhaal curry didn’t originate in the Maldives, but this version is definitely distinct. It is most commonly eaten with rice and rarely with roshi.
  • Bondibai – Usually served for special occasions, this dish is made from rice, lemongrass, cinnamon, cardamom and thick coconut milk, as well as a few dashes of rosewater.
  • Katlas – This spicy mixture of mashed potato and canned tuna is shaped into balls, soaked in raw egg and dipped into a mixture of bread crumbs before being deep-fried.

Make it at home

Why not have a go at making a traditional Maldivian snack yourself? Gulha is a popular tuna-based delicacy that is easy enough for beginners to cook. Just follow our recipe below and let us know how you get on!

Smoked Tuna Gulha


For filling:

  • 600g smoked tuna, diced or sliced
  • 160g coconut, grated
  • 10g githeyo mirus, finely chopped
  • 30g curry leaves, finely chopped
  • 120g onion, finely sliced
  • 15g ginger, grated
  • 100ml lime juice
  • 2g turmeric powder
  • 5g salt or more to taste
  • 800ml vegetable oil – for frying

For dough:

  • 480g all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 5g salt
  • 60ml vegetable oil
  • 80g grated fresh coconut
  • 300ml warm water

Step 1

Mix the onions, garlic, ginger, curry leaves, chillies, lemon juice, turmeric powder and salt.

Step 2

Next, add the tuna and coconut, and mix into a thick pastelike mixture. Shape the mixture into small marble-sized balls.

Step 3

For the dough, mix flour and coconut, and add the oil and salt to it. Then add the water gradually to make sure the dough does not turn out too sticky and knead until you have a dry, smooth dough.

Step 4

Shape the pieces of dough into cups and place filling inside, then close the cups and smooth them into balls.

Step 5

Deep fry over medium heat until brown and crisp.


For more recipes and travel tips, read the latest edition of our newsletter, The Shell.