The apprentice chef
Ajit, a friend of Ahusan, works as an apprentice chef in the Island’s Tourist Resort and looks younger than his age. He is originally from India, is his middle 30´s and –like so many other migrant workers– not so long on the island, but long enough to visit in his spare time many of the small restaurants of Male –the capital of the Maldives–and get an overview of the authentic local food.
The traditional cuisine of the Maldives -says Ajit- was very simple and consisted mostly of all derivates of coconut and tuna. The Islands are quite close to South India and Sri Lanka coasts –about 350 km north from here– so maldivians have had over the centuries rice, flour and many other spices. This is why we find here so many curry dishes, but they are milder as the indian ones because maldivians use much more coconut milk. We also find like in India Naan, Papadum, Roti and Chapati. Eastern flavors are also present due to the contact to Arab traders, who stopped here on the way through to Asia and brought with them religion – the Maldives used to be Hindu and Buddhist but they embraced Islam in 1153– so alcohol and pork meat is banned from the local cuisine. Vegetables and tubers are also not very present due to lack of farming land on the islands. Agriculture is simply not profitable, so all greens must be mostly imported. Typical dishes are Mas Huni, shredded smoked fish with grated coconuts and onions, which is the most common Maldivian breakfast, or Garudiya , a clear Tuna fish broth, or Mas Riha, a delicious Curry with Tuna, onions, chili, fennel, garlic, sometimes lime juice and –see the the arabian influence– cumin.