The Maldives is probably best known for luxury overwater villas, superb reef diving and scenery so beautiful it seems otherworldly. But this island nation in the Indian Ocean brings a lot more to the table than this. Its foodie credentials are on the rise too.
As culinary tourism cements its position among the main reasons we travel today, more and more holidaymakers are taking to social media apps like Instagram to storytell their food experiences. But when you’re looking for the ultimate backdrop for your breakfast photo, standard holiday destinations might be found wanting. Enter the Maldives for its vivid colours, textures and underwater settings that will make your food shots really pop.
And that’s without even mentioning the dining itself. Whether you want to taste local street food or witness the skills of international gourmet chefs in resort, Maldives cuisine has something to tempt you. When you eat your way around the Maldives, you can expect to find a vibrant mix of Indian, Arabian and Asian cooking – alongside lots of home-grown recipes for sizzling seafood – if you know where to look.
Popular restaurants in the Maldives
From its vantage point in the Indian Ocean along the old spice routes from Sri Lanka’s Galle Fort and other ports, the Maldives has long stood at the culinary crossroads of the world. As such, food from many different nations has had an impact on the distinct flavours of its native cooking, resulting a food scene that today embraces both international and Maldivian traditions. This is reflected in the Maldives’ restaurants and bars, both public and in resort. Check out some of Kenwood Travel’s favourite Maldives restaurants that specialise in local and international dining.
ITHAA UNDERSEA RESTAURANT
The jewel in the culinary crown at the amazing Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort, Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, is a totally unique luxury dining experience. You won’t find many better backdrops for those Instagram pics. Located 16 feet below the surface of the Indian Ocean and housed within a transparent glass dome, Ithaa offers 180-degree panoramic views – above and side to side – of the coral gardens and tropical fish that surround this underwater kingdom.
And it’s not just the setting. The food is out of this world too. Dishing up local Maldivian and European cuisine in a six-course set menu or a four-course lunch, there’s plenty to attract even the most discerning foodies. The Kenwood Travel Maldives team recommend the butter poached lobster and white peach salad with sliced Maldivian dried tuna and vinaigrette, or the fishy coconut crusted legine served with curry bisque, steamed beans and spicy sea snails.
Thila, which is part of the Kurumba Maldives resort’s superb restaurant portfolio, impresses gourmands with its a la carte main menu. And with its sweeping Indian Ocean panoramic views, makes a memorable venue for breakfast or dinner.
Our favourite dishes at Thila were the earthy Maldivian grills, spectacular seafood and a variety of classy desserts. We also loved the Fihunu Mas (grilled tuna), as well as other international dishes such as ox cheek and Tasmanian salmon. Call in seven days a week, open for breakfast and dinner service.
STINGRAY BEACH INN
Whether you’re in the mood for simple Maldivian home cooking or haute cuisine, the eclectic menu at Stingray Beach Inn has got you covered. For adventurous palattes, it’s one of the best dining experiences you can enjoy during your holiday to the Maldives, as the food on offer is so rich and varied.
In the morning, why not sample the traditional Maldivian breakfast of mas huni, or enjoy a fruit platter and juice for a fresh, tasty health kick. Stingray Beach is also one of our favourite places to kick back with a sundowner. Stop by in the evening, grab a good spot at the rooftop bar, order a signature cocktail and take in the sunset. Cheers!
This popular Indian restaurant is found at Newtown Inn on the Hulhumale Island in the Maldives. But Bombay Darbaar doesn’t just do traditional Indian food; you can also choose from a variety of Mughlia, Chinese and other continental cuisines.
From a selection of curries with traditional Maldivian roshi bread to pasta, pizza, soup, steak and omelettes, the wide-ranging menu is packed with choice. The restaurant is open to the public, although there is a special wing of the venue reserved for in-house guests.
Another sub-aquatic restaurant in the Maldives’ where marine wonders and wonderful food come together in thrilling fashion. M6 is one of five great dining options at OZEN by Atmosphere resort, but its six-metre-below location gives it the edge when it comes to atmosphere and ambience.
Frame your Instagram food pics against the large picture windows that reveal the colourful marine life swimming past. The ubiquitous gastropub brunch photos of avo’ toast can’t compete with this! The focus is on classic steaks and lobster dishes – surf and turf below the surf – and quality wines. Dig in, and dive in, at M6.
Local food in the Maldives
Inspired? Recreate a delicious Maldivian meal at home with all you need to know about ingredients and cooking methods, straight from the Kenwood kitchen.
This smoked tuna dish with coconut is the most common Maldivian breakfast and is usually accompanied with freshly-baked roshi flatbread and sweetened hot tea.
1 cup diced smoked tuna
1 cup scraped coconut
1 finely chopped onion
1 finely chopped Chinese capsicum
Lemon juice and salt to taste
Maldivian roshi bread is a staple dish that many locals eat for breakfast. Roshi is also eaten for dinner as a side dish with different types of curries. A popular way to eat roshi by shredding it into small pieces with your hands before adding a few ladles of gravy from the curry, for a hearty bite.
3 cups plain/all-purpose flour
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1½ tsp salt
Garudhiya is a classic Maldivian dish of clear fish broth; a big favourite among locals. Tuna species native to the surrounding waters like yellowfin, skipjack and little tunny are the fish traditionally used for the dish.
500g tuna fish (cleaned and chopped to medium pieces)
Rampa leaves (Pandan leaves)
Salt to taste
Fihunu Mas is a Maldivian grilled fish dish, and this popular treat is very easy to prepare. Tuna is generally the most common fish used, but locals may also use reef fish as an alternative. The process of making the dish is simple: the whole fish is gutted and coated in a smooth sauce before being cooked on a BBQ grill. Quick, easy and tasty.
2 fresh red chillies
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 tsp ground cumin
2 curry leaves, washed and dried
1 tsp black peppercorns
Salt, to taste
4 x whole fish (try seabass), gutted and descaled
Sweet-toothed Maldives holidaymakers, this one is for you. Dhonkeyo kajuru (essentially a fried banana cake) is a hugely popular dessert throughout the islands. It’s super easy to prepare too: Take 10 ripe bananas, mix with sugar, add three cups of flour and a cup of dried coconut then mix it all together with vanilla essence.
10 ripe bananas
1 cup sugar
3 cups flour
1 cup dried or scraped coconut
Rose water or vanilla essence
Vegetable oil for deep frying