by Iyath Adam
As Ramadan fast approaches, households in the Maldives are busy preparing for the month of fasting. As per Maldivian traditions, houses are getting refurbished and refurnished, along with the stocking up and making of food such as asaara (Maldivian pickles) and lonu lunbo (pickled limes).
Another uniquely Maldivian Ramadan tradition is maahefun. Translated from Dhivehi, meaning “big feast,” maahefun is a communal activity where families, friends, even colleagues and schoolmates meet up to enjoy a meal together before the month-long fasting of Ramadan begins. Typically, maahefun feasts begin about 2-3 weeks before the first day of Ramadan and include a variety of traditional Maldivian foods. In fact, it is common for people to have several maahefun with different groups of people as well!
Photo above: Foni faaroshi
Traditional maahefun food includes a variety of sweet and savoury snacks, made from local ingredients such as coconut, banana, dhiyaa hakuru (Maldivian coconut honey), rihaakuru (Maldivian fish paste) and valhomas (smoked fish).
Photo above: Aveli
Foni faaroshi, aveli and maafuh are synonymous with sweet dishes for maahefun. All are a mixture of ripe bananas, grated coconut, and sugar with either dried chunks of bread rusks (faaroshi), flattened rice or poha (aveli) and roasted finger millet flour (bimbi fuh). While foni faaroshi and aveli are eaten mixed as is with a spoon, maafuh is usually rolled into small, bite-sized balls. Although the ingredients are pretty similar, the type of carb in each dish lends them a unique taste and texture which makes them distinctly different.
Photo above: Maafuh
Photo above: Handoo bondibaiy
Photo above: Hanaakuri Mas
Widely loved and commonly eaten savoury maahefun snacks include kulhi faaroshi, and hanaakuri mas. Kulhi faaroshi is the spicy version of foni faaroshi, made by mixing bread rusks with rihaakuru, onion, chillies, and lime juice. Hanaakuri mas is a spicy, curried tuna dish which is usually eaten with handoo bondibaiy.
Photo above: Kulhi Faaroshi
Another savoury snack is mas kaashi (translated to coconut and fish), which is a sweet and savoury mix of cut up coconut meat and valhomas. Nowadays, people also add other ingredients such as huiy anbu (unripe mangoes), lha falho (unripe papayas), passionfruit and thelli rihaakuru as a dip.
Photo above: Maskurolhi
Other than these, traditional main dishes like bambukeyolee baiy (breadfruit rice) garudhiya, rihaakuru dhiya (rihaakuru and coconut milk soup) and maskurolhi (mixture of fish and coconut) and desserts such as different types of kan’dhi (fruit and coconut milk-based drink) and pirini (a milk-based dessert) are also eaten, along with slightly more contemporary dishes such as roast chicken, roshi (Maldivian flatbread) and hedhikaa (Maldivian short eats).
After all, at the end of the day, maahefun is more about getting together with loved ones and enjoying a good time with them – whichever food you choose, traditional, contemporary, or otherwise is just the delicious icing on the cake!