Bondibaiy: A Quintessential Maldivian Tradition | Lonumedhu

Bondibaiy: A Quintessential Maldivian Tradition

by Iyath Adam


If you’re wondering what the most festive Maldivian dessert is, then it would definitely have to be bondibaiy, widely made as a celebratory dish for special occasions.  


In the Maldivian tradition, bondibaiy refers to any dish that is made by cooking some type of grain or fruit with sugar and coconut milk over low heat until it turns into a glossy, somewhat viscous pudding. The grain/fruit should have a slight bite to it while the overall taste is lightly sweet.

Image: Bambukeyo Bondibai


Traditionally, bondibaiy was made with a myriad of grains like handoo (rice), bimbi (finger millet), godhan (wheat), saagu (sago), mugu (lentils), dhonalha (sorghum), zuvaari (corn) and kudhibaiy (millet) and fruits like bambukeyo (breadfruit) and falho (papaya). Nowadays, the most common type of bondibaiy which we eat are handulu bondibaiy and bambukeyo bondibaiy, although mugu and saagu bondibaiy are close seconds as well.

Image: Handulu Bondibai


Depending on the type or version of bondibaiy, aromatics and spices such as pandan leaves (raanbaa faiy), cinnamon, cardamom, and other ingredients like maafen (jasmine water) or even finifen (rose water) are added to the dish for a mildly spicy kick.

Image: Mugu Bondibai


Bondibaiy has always been a dessert used in celebration. 


In the olden days, special occasions such as the maiden voyage of a fishing boat or public feasts would be marked by serving something called a ‘malaafaiy’ which consists of different types of bondibaiy – often adorned with pomegranate seeds in different designs – and other traditional dishes like huni hakuru, hanaakuri mas, valhomas (smoked tuna) etc…

Image: Hanaakuri Mas


Although the tradition of malaafaiy has largely disappeared, bondibaiy is still used as a special dish  – like before – on auspicious days like Eid, naming a new-born baby and for maahefun. In these cases, the most common bondibaiy eaten is handulu bondibaiy – which has a mild taste – and goes great with spicy, savoury sides like hanaakuri mas (fried, curried fish), kulhi mas (spicy fish) or hanaakuri kukulhu (curried chicken).

Image: Saagu Bondibai


While bondibaiy used to be a family or community affair, where families and neighbours would come together to cook, serve, and eat together, it is now normally ordered from restaurants or businesses and served in individual packs. 


Nevertheless, bondibaiy is still a much-loved, traditional Maldivian dish no matter how it is made! 


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