Veg-friendly taste of Maldives

16th June 2022

Bright flavours, creamy coconuts, fresh produce and, of course, a lot of fish characterize Maldivian cuisine. Even though Maldivians eat tuna for breakfast, lunch, tea-time and dinner, we can adapt many recipes to fit a plant-based diet! The quintessential flavours of Maldivian cuisine do not come only from the fish but also from the colourful spices and bold herbs, spices, and blends.

The same essential ingredients build the flavour profile of Maldivian cuisine. The preparation begins with saautéing shallots, garlic, ginger, scotch bonnets, curry leaves, and Pandan leaves. Chefs and home cooks alike build on this flavour by introducing tomato paste and fresh produce. From here, the preparation method will deviate depending on whether the end product would be a curry, rice or vegetable dish. In any case, fish is almost always added near the end of many dishes. Thus, vegans can enjoy a plant-based adaptation of Maldivian cuisine without compromising flavour. 

Mashuni, kulhimas and various curries fuel Maldivians. Vegans can enjoy these local delicacies with a few minor modifications. Whether you are staying at a guesthouse or homestay, suggest the following recipe adaptations to the cook. They may not be accustomed to the plant-based preparation but will be happy to make adjustments to share their beloved cuisine. 

Mashuni is the most beloved breakfast in the Maldives, comprising finely chopped and mixed tuna, coconut, onion, chilli and lime juice. It is eaten with roshi flatbreads and served with hot black tea. We can substitute the tuna for barabo (pumpkin) without losing the essential flavours of this fresh tropical breakfast. 

Kulhimas is a popular brunch dish that translates into spicy fish. The aromatics of Maldivan cuisine shine in Kulhimas. The dish comprises onions, garlic, ginger, cardamom, cumin, curry leaves, pandan leaves, scotch bonnet, coconut cream and tuna. Chickpeas are a perfect protein substitution to enjoy a plant-based Kulhimas.

Ambu Riha is a delectable sweet and spicy mango curry. This curry is enjoyed during the mango season to use the mango surplus. Ambu Riha is made with the typical Maldivian aromatics, local mangos, fresh coconut milk and valhomas (smoked dried tuna). This recipe doesn’t require any substitutions. Simply request the cook to save you a portion of the creamy sweet curry before the addition of tuna. 

The flavours of Maldives are bright, tropical, fresh and bold. With a few minor adjustments, everyone can enjoy a taste of Maldives!