The food of Maldives is an interesting and extensive topic. You’ll not only learn about the Maldivian cuisine, but also about fruits, the peculiarities of cafes and restaurants in the Maldives, and whether to tip. All your questions will be answered and even more.
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Food of Maldives: Maldivian cuisine and must-try dishes
I absolutely love Maldivian cuisine – it’s simple, healthy, and delicious. It’s not as spicy or exotic as the cuisines in Asian countries. Chili pepper, masala, and other spices and ingredients that Europeans may not like are not used here.
Only in recent years has French fries appeared on restaurant menus, and before that, it wasn’t even available. There’s no greasy or unhealthy food, no fast food on the islands. Fast food joints do exist in Malé, but it’s not a tourist city and no one spends more than half a day there.
The main ingredients in Maldivian cuisine are:
- Tuna. Tuna is a commercial fish in the Maldives and is caught by everyone using various methods, even from the shore with a fishing rod. Tuna is prepared in a thousand ways in the Maldives, from soups to main courses and even desserts. The most popular way to cook tuna is by grilling steaks or fillets. Tuna is king here!
- About fishing in the Maldives.
- All other reef fish. There are dozens of varieties, so basically they cook whatever was caught that day. This could be grouper, barracuda, red snapper, and so on. There are a huge number of fish names in the Maldives.
- Rice is generally the staple food in Asian countries, and don’t forget that the Maldives is in Asia.
- Noodles. The only alternative to rice. When you get tired of rice, you can switch to noodles. Noodle dishes, fried with vegetables and fish, came to the Maldives from India and Sri Lanka.
- As for meat, there is a lot of chicken on the Maldives, as well as beef. However, pork is strictly prohibited and cannot be found in any form on the islands. You can learn about other prohibitions in the Maldives in the article “Interesting Facts About the Maldives“.
- Coconut is also frequently used in local cuisine.
The most popular dishes in the Maldives
Here is a ranking of the most popular dishes in the Maldives that every tourist should try:
- The national breakfast “Mas Huni”. It is served in almost all hotels, resorts, and local islands. The two main components of the breakfast are:
- Roti bread
- And a mixture that is eaten with the roti, which is called “Mas Huni”. This mixture consists of coconut, onion, tuna, and sweet chili, all finely chopped.
- In addition to Mas Huni, fruits such as apple, watermelon, and orange are also served. Boiled eggs or omelets and green salad are also commonly offered.
- Garudiya is the national clear fish soup in the Maldives. It is always prepared with tuna and served with rice, salad, and often with lemon. It tastes very similar to our fish soup, but very spicy. There is always plenty of meat in Garudiya. Tuna is almost like meat, so I call it meat 🙂
- Curry. A dish from India, a classic spicy curry with tuna or chicken and lots of rice. I can’t say that this is the national food of the Maldives, curry is the food of the entire region. And in the Maldives, the popular version of curry is with the breadfruit. This curry is called breadfruit curry – Banbukeylu Harisa.
- Kottu Roshi is also a dish from the entire region of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, which has long been established in the Maldives. These are national pancakes, Roshi or Roti (depending on how you call it), which are cut into strips and fried with vegetables, tuna, egg, and soy sauce. I really like it.
- There are also traditional salads in the Maldives. Almost all of them are prepared with tuna and coconut. Here’s what I recommend trying:
- Banana flower salad (Boshi Mashuni). Again, it has tuna, coconut, and sweet chili. You should have understood by now that these are the main ingredients in Maldivian cuisine.
- Green mango salad. A vegetable salad WITHOUT tuna and coconut 🙂
- Kopee fai salad – a green salad and as usual with coconut, tuna, and lime. Tuna is often replaced with shrimp.
Now let’s talk about the national desserts. There are quite a few of them in the Maldives, but only two are popular.
- Bondi – these are coconut sweets with cane sugar sirup wrapped in banana leaves. You can buy them in many grocery stores or at the market. These are the ones you can bring home as a souvenir for friends and colleagues. They taste remotely similar to Bounty choco bar, the one that is a heavenly delight, you all remember 🙂 In fact, there is information that Bounty took Bondi as the basis for their coconut filling.
- Sago pudding is a sweet pudding dessert made from sago. Sago is the dried and powdered pith of a palm tree that is harvested just before flowering. A special type of palm tree is grown for sago, and one adult tree can produce 150-200 kg of sago, which is then used in cooking. Personally, I’m not a big fan of this dessert, especially its appearance and texture 🙂
Fruits in the Maldives and its”abundance.”
A short disappointing chapter for many :). Everyone who is flying to the Maldives for the first time expects a fruit paradise and abundance like in Thailand or Vietnam. I will disappoint you right away, there won’t be any. The Maldives won’t surprise you with their fruit selection. They hardly grow anything here, and 90% of their fruits and vegetables are imported from neighboring countries.
Good to know:Don’t expect anything super exotic from the Maldives in terms of fruits. The selection is the same as in our stores at home, if not worse.
There are always:
- Oranges, and mandarins for New Year’s 🙂 By the way, there’s an interesting article about how they celebrate New Year’s in the Maldives and whether it’s worth going there during that time.
- Papaya and passionfruit are available almost all year round. Papaya in the Maldives is very sweet.
- Everything else is expensive and imported. You can find dragon fruit and guavas, but not everywhere and not year-round.
Cafes and restaurants in the Maldives: general information and service times
The following information will mostly relate to the local islands, as for tourists who stay in closed resort hotels on private islands, things are slightly different. However, the general information will be useful for everyone.
Here are some facts about Maldivian restaurants:
- There are restaurants on every local island. There aren’t many, but there aren’t few either. On any island, you will find 3-4 restaurants within a 1km radius where you can have a meal.
- Alcohol is not sold anywhere, it’s illegal even in the black market. The maximum you can buy is non-alcoholic beer. This only applies to local islands; it is available on private resorts but at a high price.
- An important point to keep in mind is the service time. Generally, nobody rushes anywhere here. Keep in mind that hot dishes can take an hour or more, especially when it comes to grilled dishes.
Good to know:Local Maldivian restaurants, especially those run by fishermen themselves, often practice pre-orders. During the day, you walk past a restaurant on the beach, place an order for a large grilled fish by 9 pm, and head back to the beach. When you return to the restaurant at 9 pm, nothing will be ready yet, but you’ll wait for less time than if you hadn’t pre-ordered.
The attitude towards time is somewhat specific, but not critical. I know of countries where there is no difference between 5 minutes and 2 hours, but the Maldives is better in this regard. Everything is about time in the Maldives.
Menu in Maldivian restaurants
In any restaurant, you will find:
- 2-3 types of soups, usually all with tuna
- 3-4 salads
- The selection of hot dishes is always large:
- grilled fish, shrimp, and tuna. They prepare both tuna steaks and whole fish weighing 1-1.5 kg.
- about 10 dishes with rice: chicken, tuna, vegetables, curry
- the same with noodles
- lobsters are often on the menu, but they are imported to the Maldives, so they are expensive. A dinner for two with lobster can cost around $100.
- there are desserts, both national and what we know and love.
- There are also many dishes (rice or noodles) with chicken or beef.
- Dishes with squid and octopus are often on the menu as well.
Prices, tips, and taxes in Maldivian restaurants
Here we are primarily talking about local islands, as prices at resorts are 10 times higher. If an average dinner for two at a resort will easily cost you $100 or $200, then at a restaurant on any local island, you can easily have dinner for $25-30 for two. More detailed information on prices in the Maldives for all categories of goods and services can be found here.
I won’t go into detail, the above was a typical menu with the most standard prices, and below there will be a photo of a menu from one of the regular restaurants. I want to note that the Maldives are not as expensive as many people think.
- Soups – $3-$5
- Hot dishes – $5-$7. You can also order large sets for two people for $10-$12.
- Salads – $4-$6
- Drinks: juices, smoothies, milkshakes – $3-$5
- Alcohol expenses – $0 🙂 Very convenient.
- A large grilled fish (1 kg) is around $10-$15.
- In general, two hot dishes, two salads or two soups, and two juices cost $25. The portions are large, so you won’t leave the table hungry.
Let me tell you what you need to know about tips and taxes in Maldivian restaurants. There are some peculiarities here:
- GST is a tax, similar to VAT. It is added to the price of everything, and often the prices in the menu already include GST – which is good. If the price of a dish does not include GST, then there should be a note about it at the bottom of the menu. In this case, the bill will be higher by the amount of this tax:
- On local islands, it is 8%.
- On resorts and private islands, it is 16%.
- Tipping is welcomed in the Maldives, and often it is already included in the bill. Here’s the thing: if the bill includes a line item for SC (service charge), that is the tip. You don’t need to leave anything extra. Usually, SC is 10%. If SC is 0, then people usually leave a tip at their discretion, but the staff will appreciate it.
Here are two examples of bills from a restaurant:
In conclusion, the food of Maldives is delicious and healthy, and you will definitely discover that tuna is a staple here, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. As for the Maldivian cuisine, I prefer it over the cuisine of other Asian countries. There are many dishes that are not spicy, not salty, and without any strange ingredients.
Wishing you a pleasant dinner by the ocean in a Maldivian restaurant!
Resources to help you plan your dream trip to the Maldives
- Flight tickets and the best deals
- Hotels and guesthouses on any island: Booking
- Tour packages (from budget to luxury): Expedia
- Comprehensive insurance: EKTA
- eSIM virtual SIM card with internet package at the same price as in telecom store in Male