Assignment 120: Maldives

MAL mapLocation: Southern Asia, in the Indian Ocean
Population: 515,000
Capital: Malé
Geography: A tropical archipelago made up of over 1100 coral islands
Language: Dhivehi
Signature flavours: Seafood (especially tuna), coconut, pandan, hot peppers, rice, root vegetables, tropical fruits

The Menu

Our family and friends all know about the Wooden Spoon Wanderer project, and by this point, have contributed a few cookbooks to the WSW library, including some that cover all the countries of the world. These come in very handy, especially for tiny places like Maldives, and Eric used both Tasting the World, and The Complete Book of National Dishes (see links below). He also came across a blog,, and a YouTube channel: Maldivian Bites. From these sources, he put together a menu inspired by the various flavours of Maldives, which have been influenced by European, African, and South Asian culinary traditions over time.

MAL soup

Garudhiya: A simple soup served with just about every meal in Maldives — pieces of tuna in a broth made from water, onions, curry leaves, hot peppers, and lime juice.

Prep and cooking time: 30 min
Difficulty: 1/5

MAL plate

Kulhimas: A coconut-y curry loaded with juicy chunks of tuna, flavoured with pandan and spiced with chili peppers, and served alongside basmati rice.

Prep and cooking time: 35 min
Difficulty: 2/5

Mashed Purple Yam: Steamed purple yam, moistened with just a bit of butter and topped with shredded coconut.

Prep and cooking time: 15 min
Difficulty: 1/5

MAL bread

Lobster Masroshi: Whole wheat fried flatbread stuffed with, lobster, coconut, onion, curry leaves, and hot peppers.

Prep and cooking time: 25 min
Difficulty: 3/5


Boakuri Falho: Jewel-like candied papaya flavoured with pandan.

Prep and cooking time: 2 hours
Difficulty: 2/5

MAL guava

Feyru Fani: A thick, sweetened fruit juice made from white guavas.

Prep and cooking time: 10 min
Difficulty: 1/5

The Shopping List

Eric’s journey for ingredients took him over two hours from our little village, to Kitchener, Ontario, which boasted a few Indian grocery stores (where he found red curry powder and fresh curry leaves, hot peppers, guavas, papaya, and purple yams) and a fishmonger (where he found two beautiful tuna steaks). Pandan leaf could not be found — even when we lived in Toronto we struggled to source pandan — so he used pandan extract, which lends dishes a green tinge. All his other ingredients were sourced from our local supermarket.

MAL tuna

The Meal

Eric started cooking shortly after 4pm and we sat down to eat around 9pm.

“I used everything we own,” he said proudly, in answer to my silent surveying of the piles of pots, pans, small appliances, and utensils that littered every surface.

MAL spices

He was exhausted, and more than ready to enjoy the fruits of his labour, so we started with refreshing gulps of thick guava juice, before starting our meal — like Maldivians often do — with small bowls of garudhiya. This soup might only contain a handful of ingredients, but the taste was incredible, and I loved the combination of the simple, slightly acidic broth with the meaty tuna.

MAL table

Our next stop was kulhimas, dyed bright green by the pandan extract. It was an explosion of flavours, and I couldn’t get over the quality of the tuna in this dish, too, which is not easy to come by 1000 kilometers from the ocean.

I had helped with the lobster masroshi, which Eric adapted from tuna masroshi to give the meal a bit more variety. For each one, a small ball of dough was stretched into a hollow cup, then topped up with the filling, and folded closed. These were then rolled flat and pan fried, very much like pupusas, which Eric had made for his El Salvador Assignment. They tasted wonderful, and we used them to scoop kulhimas and to soak up the last of the garudhiya.

MAL folding

The purple yam was the purpliest food I’ve ever seen. It was positively vivid. The flavour, much like other yams, is earthy and slightly sweet.

Our dessert was boakuri falho. Eric had boiled finely sliced papaya in sugar, cinnamon, and water  for well over an hour to reduce the dish to a jammy pudding. It was a sweet finish to an excellent meal, made all the sweeter by the fact that whoever cooks the assignment also cleans up after.

MAL papaya

The World Cookbook: The Greatest recipes from Around the Globe by Jeanne Jacob and Michael Ashkenazi
Tasting the World…One Country at a Time by Nicole Jordan O’Donnell
The Complete Book of National Dishes by Henderson Daniel and Kristy Khemraj

Disclaimer: I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a passionate cook with a curiosity for flavours I’ve never tried. For great recipes from gifted local cooks, follow the links above.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s