Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes
Garudhiya: the national dish is tuna, peppers, onions,
and lime served with rice
Kavaabu: rice, tuna, coconut, and lentils formed in a
ball and deep fried
When eating in the Maldives, remember that you are in a
Muslim country and with that comes a couple etiquette rules you must know and follow.
First, dress on the conservatively side (see our
Maldives Culture Page for more details). Second, in conservative homes and
even some restaurants, it is not acceptable to eat with a person of the opposite
sex unless it is your child, sibling, or spouse. While this is very uncommon today,
to some conservative Muslims this is important so observe the local restaurant's
situation and follow their lead. Fortunately, most restaurants in the country today
are catered to tourists so there are no issues on dress, company, or nearly anything
else so long as you are polite.
If you get by those first two rules, try to arrive on time for a meal and if eating
in a local's home remove your shoes at the door. Greet the elders first, but
men should not touch the hand of a woman, unless she offers her hand. No matter,
you should greet and acknowledge everyone. Prior to sitting down you may be asked
to wash your hands; follow the lead of others to know when and where to wash your
hands, but you must do so prior to eating. Let your host seat you and when sitting
be sure to keep your feet flat on the floor or pointed behind you as pointing the
soles of your feet at another can be offensive. More commonly you will only be eating
in local restaurants that are primarily catered to foreigners so the rules reflect
that of Europe or North America.
Once the food begins to arrive, your host may direct you to certain dishes you should
eat; accept all of your host's suggestions as turning down food can be rude.
Although you must take all of their suggestions, try to limit the amount you take
so you can later accept additional food, which is a great compliment.
Eat as the locals eat; in many homes this means eating directly with your right
hand (and your right hand only), but in most resorts and restaurants in Male you
may be offered dining utensils (cutlery), in which case eat in the continental style
(knife or spoon in the right hand, fork in the left). If a knife is not present,
most locals will hold the spoon in their right hand and eat primarily from the spoon.
No matter which utensil you hold in which hand, be sure to only bring food to your
mouth with the utensil in your right hand. As you finish your food, and your second
helping of food, leave a bit on your plate to show there was more than enough. After
everyone gets up from the table, you should again follow the lead of others and
wash your hands once more.
Most resorts and restaurants in the capital include a service change on the bill
and there is no need to leave an additional tip. If there is no service charge included,
leave about 10% for sit down restaurants; tipping at teahouses is not necessary
Celebrations & Events
In the Maldives, Eid al Fitr is celebrated with
meat. Eid al Fitr is a celebration that occurs immediately after Ramadan,
a religious holiday that requires fasting for 30 days. Eid al Fitr is celebrated
with the heavy use of both meat and oil, two items which symbolize wealth and are
rich and filling enough to satisfy anyone who has fasted for a full month. Many
times fish dishes are also included in the celebration, but are less prominent.
These foods are followed with desserts and the selection of sweets can be quite
The second major religious food celebration in the Maldives
is Eid al Adha, which is only celebrated after a pilgrim returns from haj,
the mandatory journey for every able Muslim to go to Mecca. Again, this festival
contains a large number of traditional dishes, but includes more meat that the typical
daily diet; the foods served are not unlike those served during Eid al Fitr.
The two most popular local drinks in the Maldives are seasonal juices and tea. Juices
vary by season and vary nearly as widely with price, but mango and pineapple are
two of the most popular. Tea is also very common among the locals and is available
everywhere. For a more unique drink, try raa, which is made from the sap
of palm trees and sometimes fermented (so it may be alcoholic, but barely so). Coffee
and soft drinks are available in nearly every hotel and resort in the country as
As a primarily Muslim country, the Maldives has very little
alcohol available in public places. However, the country thrives on tourism and
the high end hotels and resorts provide their guests with a wide selection of international
alcohols (lower end hotels tend to have a more limited selection). When in a resort
there is no taboo of drinking alcohol; if in public you most likely won't find
any alcohol, but if you do remember that most locals don't drink and you should
follow suite. Also try to avoid going out in public if inebriated.
The tap water in the Maldives may be safe, but there is
debate on the issue. Most hotels use desalinated water that is purified, but still
many of these same hotels claim the water should be avoided. To be safe avoid the
tap water and be weary of anything with ice as it may have been made from the tap
water. Salads and fruits could have also been washed in the tap water so be careful
with those foods as well.