by Iyath Adam
As a country surrounded entirely by the ocean, it is no surprise that the bulk of Maldivian cuisine consists of fish-based dishes. Here, we look at some of the different fish used in Maldivian cuisine, their local names, and the dishes that are typically made from them.
Tuna is a type of kandu mas or deep-sea fish that makes up the backbone of the Maldivian cuisine. Generally, tuna is caught using the pole-and-line method. Different types of tuna eaten in the Maldives include skipjack tuna (kalhubila mas), frigate tuna (raagondi), bigeye tuna (loa bodu kanneli), yellowfin tuna (kanneli) and little tuna (latti).
Tuna can be used either fresh, canned, cured or smoked. You can find tuna in almost all savoury Maldivian dishes, in everything from garudhiya (Maldivian fish broth) to hedhika (Maldivian short eats).
Canned tuna is one of the most versatile and long-lasting ingredients which can be used as a replacement for fresh tuna in almost all dishes. Valhomas – the Maldivian smoked fish – is also made from tuna.
Some noteworthy hedhika made from canned tuna or valhomas include bajiya, gulha, kulhi boakibaa and masroshi. Other quintessential Maldivian food such as rihaakuru and mashuni as well as kulhimas, mas riha, fihunu mas (baked or barbecued fish) and theluli mas (deep-fried fish) are also made from tuna.
Reef snappers are classified as farumas in the local language (faru meaning “reef”). Different reef snappers found in the Maldives include black and white snapper (foniya mas), humpback red snapper (ginimas), one-spot snapper (dhon filolhu) and two-spot red snapper (raiymas).
Farumas is best enjoyed freshly caught and barbecued. Alternatively, you can also make farumas garudhiya from this fish or farumas riha, a spicy curry best enjoyed with roshi (Maldivian flatbread).
Silver Sprat (Rehi)
Silver sprat or rehi is commonly used as bait by fishermen. However, it is also a delicious fish to eat as well. Theluli rehi – which is deep-fried, either on its own or covered with spices – is usually eaten as a condiment with garudhiya, or with kirugarudhiya and rice or roshi.
Rainbow runner (Maaniya mas)
Rainbow runner or maaniya mas is a massive fish that can grow up to 12 kg. Maaniya mas is prepared and eaten in a variety of different ways; in garudhiya, kulhi mas, mas riha, fihunu mas or theluli mas.
Bigeyed scad (Mushimas)
Bigeyed scad or mushimas is a type of oceanic fish – used as bait by local fishermen. Mushimas is best eaten whole (bones and all!), slathered in lonumirus (Maldivian chilli paste) and deep-fried. It can be eaten on its own but is usually eaten with rice and garudhiya or kirugarudhiya and riha with roshi.
There are four types of hibaru or billfish found in the Maldives; sailfish (fan-gandu hibaru), swordfish (thungandu hibaru), blue marlin (noomas hibaru) and black marlin (kalhumas hibaru).
Hibaru mas is usually cut steak-style and pan-fried with lonumirus, which enhances its slightly meaty, fatty flavour. Like most fihunu – baked or barbecued – fish in Maldivian cuisine, it is usually eaten as a side with rice and garudhiya.