by Iyath Adam
For this week’s article, we interviewed ‘food influencer’ Samaahath who runs the Foodness by Saa pages on Instagram.
We discuss how she got into the food scene, her famous ‘modunu baiygandu’ and her advice for budding food enthusiasts. Read on to find out more!
Lonumedhu: Tell us a little bit about how you got into being a ‘food influencer’?
Saa: I actually don’t think of myself as a food influencer (laughs). Because I got into it completely based on my passion for cooking. For me, creating plates and being around cooking, it takes me back to my childhood. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been in the kitchen with my mum. Our neighbours, my mum’s friends and my friends would also come to our house to cook and eat; it was always very food centric. And both my parents are huge foodies as well.
I have two pages right now, Saa Samaahath and Foodness by Saa. I first started selling oats boakibaa from the Foodness page, because all my friends encouraged me to start selling my food as a business. But because I didn’t really have the time to do it full-time, I started taking pre-orders. Within a month, we got a lot of orders, and a lot of repeat customers as well, which made me very happy. However, it was during the past 10 months that I noticed a huge increase in the number of followers at my Saa Samaahath account – without any boosting. That’s something that makes me really proud. Now, I get about 3-4 messages daily from my followers; some mentioning that the page really helps when sharing information about Maldivian cuisine to foreigners too. This gives me a lot of motivation to keep going forward.
Lonumedhu: Your plated dishes look absolutely delicious! Everything is organised so well. What do you focus on the most when plating?
Saa: It makes me very happy when I sit down to eat after creating a good-looking plate. I think I get it from my mum; she’s someone who loves to set the table and arrange everything well before we eat.
When taking plating photos, I try to use natural light as much as possible. But it does take a lot of time. Even when everyone else is done eating, I’ll still usually be trying to take the perfect picture (laughs).
Lonumedhu: What made you think of giving away and taking orders for the ‘modunu baiygandu’? I don’t think it’s something I’ve ever seen sold. What was the response to it?
Saa: So ‘modunu baiygandu’ is something that’s very famous in our house and even among my friends, since we were in school. My mum would make a ‘baiygandu’ in a big pot with baiy (rice), rihaakuru and thelli faiy with lunboa (lemon) and all that. In Ramadan also, sometimes we will go through three to four dabiyas of thelli faiy, because she would make big pots of the ‘baiygandu.’ It’s a signature thing of my mum, and alhamdulillah it has been a huge hit among my followers as well.
Lonumedhu: Following up on that, I have to ask. What’s the best baiy (rice) to rihaakuru ratio?
Saa: I think it would be 3:1 with more baiy. If there is too much rihaakuru, it only has that saltiness of rihaakuru, which can only be fixed with adding a bit more rice again (laughs).
Lonumedhu: I think this is a complete passion project for you, right? What would you say is the most challenging part about it?
Saa: Right now, one difficulty for me is managing the two pages (laughs). It’s a bit hard to keep track of. Another thing is writing down exact ingredients in recipes. When I’m putting up a post with a new dish, I always try to share the cooking steps of it. But because I eyeball ingredients and we bulk cook a lot in the house, it’s difficult for me to give accurate measurements, especially when followers DM asking for 1-2 people serving size. I hope to learn to give accurate measurements to my followers in the future though.
Lonumedhu: What’s your favourite dish to make?
Saa: The Maldivian spaghetti with masdhalhu (canned tuna) and tomato paste. Everyone in my house loves it, and it’s a dish I’m known for. I’ve put it up on the page with the instructions too, and a lot of followers have said that they liked the dish. However, a lot of my friends who’ve eaten it when I made it have said that it doesn’t taste the same when they make it (laughs). So, this dish has become something that I really enjoy cooking for other people.
Lonumedhu: Do you have a chef or famous foodie whose work inspires you?
Saa: My inspiration comes from my mum and from people all over. Because different people have different talents, and areas they excel in, and it is inspiring to watch their work. And I learn a lot from them too. Things like how to use different ingredients, little tactics that make dishes better.
Lonumedhu: What’s your advice for budding ‘food influencers’ who want to go ahead in this field?
Saa: Always have your own touch in your work. You can cook everything, but unless and until you have an element of your own in your content, you can’t stand out. And the food you make, the plating you do and the content you create should come from your heart. Don’t try to copy other people, and it shouldn’t be something that you are doing because someone else is doing it. And remember, nothing is impossible – the sky's the limit if you set your mind to it.
Lonumedhu: What’s next for the Foodness by Saa and Saa Samaahath pages?
Saa: Learning more about food. What kept me going was the DMs from people who didn’t even like cooking, telling me that my instructions were easy to follow and made them want to cook. So, I would like to learn and contribute to the food community here in the Maldives. And I would also love to do more giveaways in the future, because I love to give to my followers.
Lonumedhu: We’d love to see that too and hope to see your work flourish. Thank you so much for your time, Saa. We wish you wonderful times ahead!