The Maldives is Asia’s smallest country, both in terms of population and land area. They’re a tiny island nation that’s 99 percent water and famous for fine, white-sand beaches flanked by the turquoise Indian Ocean, overwater villas, vibrant tropical greenery, and some great diving spots.
Let’s not forget romantic candle light dinners, champagne sunsets and some truly unforgettable and unique dining experiences. Be it dining under the sea at an exquisite underwater restaurant, private dining on the beach with your toes in the sand, or perhaps a table for two on the veranda of your overwater bungalow, these are guaranteed dining experiences you’ll never forget.
The Maldivian archipelago is not only home to countless tropical islands, white sandy beaches, swaying palm trees and crystal clear waters teeming with marine life – it also boasts some of the region’s most delicious cuisine.
Traditional Maldivian cuisine, also known as Dhivehi cuisine, offers a wonderful variety and unique tastes and aromas, distinct touches of mild spiciness, delicate sweetness and an overall exotic taste, all using cooking techniques that have been passed down for generations. This is a cuisine rich in traditional flavors seasoned in a way that blends Sinhala, Indian and Arabic influences.
The three pillars of traditional Maldivian cuisine are coconut, fish and starch. called coconuts kurumba in Dhivehi, are grown on all the islands of the Maldives. The island’s thin topsoil is difficult to manage, except for coconut palms, which are grown in large numbers and are such an important part of culture and cuisine that the coconut palm has been declared the country’s national tree. Coconut is used in a variety of forms in Maldivian cuisine, from grated and grated to coconut milk and as an oil.
In an oceanic island nation, it’s not surprising that fish is the main ingredient in the kitchen – with tuna as king – and is eaten in all sorts of dishes. Rihaakuru, a thick brown paste of smoked tuna that has been simmered for many hours, is eaten daily in virtually every Maldivian household, often accompanied by rice (which must be imported), taro, sweet potatoes or breadfruit.
Maldivians also have their own version of curry powder, or paste, called it Lonumiruswhich gets its unique flavor from the addition of coconut and pandan to the more traditional curry spices of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cumin.
1. Local Dishes
When traveling, it’s often easy and tempting to stick to the food you know and are comfortable with. My first breakfast in the Maldives was coming up JOALI Maldives, and the wide range of options made my head spin. While the Eggs Benedict were tempting and the selection of tropical fruits, juices and smoothies looked enticing, I decided to try a local Maldivian breakfast special: mashuni.
Maldivian food revolves around fish, especially smoked tuna and coconut. Mashuni is a dish of minced smoked fish with onions and grated coconut. Served with a freshly baked roshi (a flatbread similar to the Indian/Sri Lankan roti or paratha) it was a very tasty breakfast and I was glad this was my first experience of local food.
Later on in my journey, during a stay in Anantara Kihavah Villas, we were treated to a special Maldivian “Dining by Design” dinner. White-clothed tables on the beach, glittering lanterns and candles; We sat with our toes in the sand and sampled a variety of local dishes. A salad of local lobster poached in spiced coconut milk, called a traditional seafood broth Kiru Garudiya, followed by some spiced lamb chops, tuna marinated in sambal and finally a traditional dessert Kiru Boakibaa made from coconut milk and ground rice flavored with aromatic lemongrass, cardamom, cinnamon and rose water. An incredible dining experience.
2. Floating breakfast
The morning after our dinner on the beach, I was awakened by a gentle knock on the door. My “floating breakfast” was delivered. If you think breakfast in bed is decadent, then you really need to try a floating breakfast! In case you’re not familiar with the concept, here’s what you need to know – imagine a fully loaded wicker basket, with baked goods, cereal, yogurt, jam, honey, marmalade, fresh fruit, eggs (whatever you like), Fruit juice, champagne and more – enough food for two to start the day. All of this floats on the surface of your private pool, just a few feet above the ocean. Tasty and picturesque at the same time.
3. Eating underwater
You’d be excused if you thought it would be hard to top a floating breakfast – well, how about an underwater breakfast? Anantara Kihavah VillasUnderwater SEA Restaurant offers you the opportunity to enjoy great food while enjoying an incredible underwater experience. The glass sides of the octagonal dining room allow guests a breathtaking view of the marine life swimming back and forth, so close and so clear you feel you could almost touch them! Imagine feasting on lobster eggs Benedict while submerged in the Indian Ocean, or sipping champagne in the company of sea turtles – it’s not every day that you can say you’ve eaten with the fish!
4. Underwater Wine Tasting
We were to have another fascinating encounter at the world’s first underwater wine cellar and restaurant. This time an underwater wine tasting with the resort’s knowledgeable and friendly sommelier. Arun walked us through a range of wines, telling us about their history, their profiles, their bouquets and how they paired with and enhanced different dishes and cuisines. He told us how immersing champagne in the underwater cellar subtly altered the aromas of the wine and how the wine aged the equivalent of 5 years with each month of immersion.
He also told us about guests who might come for a special occasion and can and do submerge bottles of Dom Pérignon, usually several months before their arrival. I’ve learned a lot but I have to admit that it’s pretty easy to get distracted when a reef shark, sea turtle or a bunch of eagle rays swim past the window!
5. Dining under the stars
The SKY Rooftop Bar at Anantara Kihavah Villas is a two-story lounge bar with comfortable chairs perfect for stargazing from the open rooftop terrace before heading to the Maldives’ most powerful surface water observatory for up-close stargazing.
The resort’s in-house astronomer and SKY guru guides guests through the maze of stars and constellations, and with low light pollution, guests are rewarded with dramatic views of planets, stars and the moon, all in perfect display. Each session is limited to eight people, and couples can book a special “Honeymoon Stargazing” option, allowing honeymooners to name a star after their loved one as a never-ending gift.
6. Multinational cuisine
Yes, you are in the Maldives. But that doesn’t mean you can’t dine like in Italy, Japan, Southeast Asia, or on the shores of the Mediterranean. JOALI Maldives is one of the most luxurious resorts in the Maldives and this luxury is reflected in its dining experiences.
Soake is the island’s Japanese restaurant. Designed by world-renowned architect Noriyoshi Muramatsu, the restaurant appears to float above the crystal clear waters that surround the island, offering incredible views while enjoying select sake, sushi, and teppanyaki or kotatsu seating for iron grill lovers.
Combine this with the experience of watching whitetip reef sharks cruising through the waters beneath the restaurant pursuing the fish that are attracted to the underwater lights and you have the makings of a meal to remember.
7. Fine dining with a paired menu
Japanese cuisine one night and Italian cuisine the next. Fancy hand-cut carpaccio of marinated Angus beef with truffle cream and truffle dressing, paired with some French champagne? How about a golden saffron risotto garnished with gold leaf and washed down with an Australian Chardonnay? A four-course meal with wine pairings selected by the sommelier LUX* South Ari Atoll gives you exactly that!
Allegria restaurant takes you from the Maldives to the Mediterranean. The menu is mostly Italian – think gnocchi, homemade pasta, fresh seafood and wood-fired pizza. As a special treat, Allegria’s wine cellar can be booked privately for small groups like ours to dine in the wine cellar while tasting New World wines.
8. Cooking Class
My culinary journey in the Maldives concluded when I ate a traditional Maldivian breakfast on my first morning in this tropical country and ended my journey at LUX* South Ari Atoll and took part in a cooking class where we handed out some local dishes.
The enthusiastic chef showed how the targeted use of spices enhances otherwise very simple dishes. Start with to keemiyamuch like a samosa, we learned how to fill batter with tuna, sliced onions, and sautéed shredded cabbage.
Next, we mastered a cabbage and coconut salad before the last course, another traditional dishAnbuRihaa unique curry of smoked tuna cooked with mango, coconut and fiery hot chilies.
For more information about the Maldives, see these articles: