Havaadhu; Uniquely Dhivehi | Lonumedhu

Havaadhu; Uniquely Dhivehi

Havaadhu has always played a prominent role in Maldivian cuisine. Special dishes like kandu kukulhu, made with freshly-made curry paste, are part of festive celebrations like Eid. In the past, preparations for Ramadan and special occasions started a few days ahead. Groups of women would gather to chop fresh ingredients and roast spices on big woks on an open wood fire. The havaadhu mixes are ground using dhai and foi (grinding stone and muller), a time-consuming method that requires upper body strength. They were whipped up in large batches amid a backdrop of gossip and laughter.

Although ready-made spice mixes are now available in many kinds, nothing beats curry paste made from scratch. Older generations still stick to the old recipes. But now making havaadhu is as simple as tossing everything in a food processor.

We talked to people who have been making havaadhu for so long that they can list the ingredients by heart. Although the recipes differ slightly from region to region, the main ingredients are the same. Here are some authentic havaadhu recipes to give your favourite local dishes a uniquely Dhivehi flair.


Dhon Huni Havaadhu (Turmeric Coconut Curry Paste)


This type of havaadhu is typically used to make spicy yellow curries like dhon riha, reef fish, moringa and other types of fathu riha (leaf curry). It’s great for breadfruit curry as well.

Kandu Kukulhu curry paste requires the same ingredients but it’s made with fewer chillies, and coriander seeds are added (1 tablespoon for this recipe).



1 medium-sized coconut, grated

3 onions

5 cloves of garlic

8 cardamom pods

4 cloves

2-inch piece of ginger

2-inch piece of cinnamon

6 dried chillies

2 scotch bonnets (one, if you’re using an extra spicy kind)

1 tsp. black peppercorns

2 tbsp. cumin

2 tbsp. fennel seeds

2 sprigs curry leaves

1 - 2 tsp. turmeric powder



Grind everything in a food processor or grinder until very smooth. Add a few spoons of water if it’s too dry.


Miruhulee Havaadhu (Chilli Curry Paste)

This curry paste is great for fiery tuna curries, smoked tuna dishes and kulhimas. Goes great with chicken too.



1 coconut (small-medium), grated

1 large onion

4 cloves of garlic

4-6 dried chillies

1 scotch bonnet

4 cardamom pods

1/2-inch piece of cinnamon

2-3 sprigs curry leaves



Put everything in a grinder and mix just until everything is ground. It’s supposed to have a grainy texture.


Huni Havaadhu (Coconut Curry Paste)

Highly recommended for plantain curry. Goes great with sponge gourd and snake gourd as well.

This curry paste can also be ground raw without roasting the ingredients as well.



2 cups coconut, grated

1 tbsp. fennel seeds

2 tbsp. cumin

1/4 cup dried chilis

2 tsp. peppercorns

3 cinnamon sticks

10 cardamom pods

1/2 tbsp. cloves

2 tsp. turmeric powder

1/2 cup onions, sliced

2 tbsp. garlic, sliced

2 tbsp. ginger, sliced

3 scotch bonnets

4 to 6 sprigs curry leaves

6 inches pandan leaves



Toast the ingredients in a dry pan over low heat, stirring at regular intervals until the coconut has turned golden brown.

Let cool.

Grind the mixture to a semi-coarse texture and store in an airtight container.

You can blend the required amount to a paste when ready to use.


Lonumirus Havaadhu (Spicy Curry Paste)

Great for chicken dishes, curries made with this paste doesn’t require the usual browning of onions, garlic and curry leaves. Instead, they are cooked in thin coconut milk with some fenugreek seeds.



1/2 of a medium-sized coconut, grated

1 tablespoon cumin

8-10 dried chillies



Mix everything together and grind. Add some water to make a paste.


Hanaakuri Havaadhu (Roasted Curry Powder)


This curry powder is great for potato and pumpkin curries.



6 tablespoon coriander seeds

2 tablespoons cumin

3 tablespoons fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon peppercorns

8 cardamom pods

1/2-inch piece of cinnamon

6 dried chillies



Heat a dry pan and add all the ingredients except the cumin.

Roast until coriander seeds make a popping sound and the fennel seeds no longer taste raw.

Add the cumin and remove from heat.

Mix everything together until slightly cooled and grind to a fine powder.


Kothanbiri Havaadhu (Coriander Spice Mix)


This curry powder is great for musamma, egg curry, and chicken dishes.



1/2 cup coriander seeds

1/2 cup fennel seeds

1/4 cup cumin

1/2 cup dried chillies

3 tbsp. peppercorns

5 cinnamon sticks (3 inch sticks)

10 cardamom pods

1 tbsp. cloves

1 tbsp. turmeric powder



Toast the spice mix in a wok until fragrant and golden brown. Let cool and grind into a powder.



You can prepare these curry pastes ahead in large batches. The dry ones can be roasted, ground and stored in airtight containers in a cool dry place. The pastes with coconut can be stored in containers in the freezer for a couple of weeks.

*Special thanks to Sobira Abdulla and Khadeeja Mohamed for helping us out with this article.



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