Lakshadweep Vs. Maldives; The Food Cultures Of The Islands

For most, the ideal vacation involves dreams of pristine sands and clear blue surf, the type of island paradise which is postcard-ready at all times. Many destinations in the world offer this sort of idyllic seascape, but there are two right on our doorstep which have been go-to destinations for Indian travellers for many years. Lakshadweep and the Maldives.

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In the wake of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the islands of Lakshadweep, there has been a renewed interest in the two destinations, whether for the better or the worse is debatable. But while people are dreaming of feeling their toes in the sand and sunning themselves under the tropical sun, one of the most impressive aspects of these islands sometimes gets overlooked – the food.

These archipelagos each have a diverse history shaped by the people who inhabited them and have resulted in a kaleidoscopic array of dishes for each. So wherever you may be visiting, take a chance to immerse yourself in the vast world of culinary delights.


Culinary Influences

As per local lore, the first settlers in Lakshadweep arrived on an expedition searching for a Chera King. Androth, Kavaratti, Kalpeni, Ameni, and Agathi are considered the earliest inhabited islands, and the first inhabitants are believed to have originated from the nearby state of Kerala. The cultural and culinary ties between these islands and Kerala are evident, with Lakshadweep's cuisine drawing significant influence from Kerala's Malabar cuisine. Dishes in Lakshadweep feature the distinct flavours of coconut oil and curry leaves. The island communities appreciate dishes borrowed directly from Kerala, including idli, dosa, aviyal, biryani, and the renowned Malabar parotta.

The Role of Seafood:

While the cuisine includes several vegetarian options, the predominant focus is on seafood due to the islands' geographical location. Specialities from the sea encompass a variety of fish, notably tuna, crabs, and even baby octopuses. The island's delicacies are distinctive, blending the freshness of the sea with traditional spices.

Coconut Dominance:

The islands boast abundant coconut trees, thriving due to the favourable soil conditions. Consequently, coconut plays a vital role in the preparation of most dishes on these islands, such as the use of coconut milk in curries and coconut oil in cooking. In the realm of beverages, coconut water stands out as the most popular choice.

Daily Dining

Lakshadweep boasts a range of delectable sweets, which are usually simple and feature the signature ingredients of rice and coconut. These sweets are often enjoyed during festivals and special occasions. When you’re out and about in Lakshadweep and looking for a quick bite, there are plenty of options. From seafood specialities like fried octopus and squid to fish kebabs which offer a taste of the seafood specialities in a convenient package. 

10 Must Try Dishes In Lakshadweep

Kavaratti Biryani:

The delectable Kavaratti Biryani, a speciality of the Lakshadweep archipelago, features fragrant Basmati rice spiced with various ingredients, tender meat, and delightful fish. Coconut, coriander, and a touch of saffron impart distinctive flavours, making it an authentic cuisine of Lakshadweep.

Octopus Fry:

Indulge in the distinctive flavours of Lakshadweep with the delightful Octopus Fry. Baby octopus meets green chillies, garlic, and salt, elevated to a delightful level by a secret herb-infused sauce, offering a taste journey through vibrant local spices and the briny ocean.

Mus Kavaab:

A prized dish, Mus Kavaab showcases boneless fish marinated in a tasty paste of coconut, turmeric, cardamom, cloves, coriander, and chilli powder. Achieving a tantalising balance of flavour and consistency, the marinated fish chunks are cooked with tomatoes, onions, and curry leaves, reflecting the rich culinary heritage.

Fish Tikka:

For seafood enthusiasts, Fish Tikka in Lakshadweep is a culinary delight. Meticulously prepared with a spice mixture of salt, ginger, garlic, and chilli, the fish is carefully cooked in a tandoor or griller, offering a delicious explosion of flavours for those appreciating the finer tastes of the sea.

Fish Pakora:

Immerse yourself in the local street food vibe with Fish Pakora, where boneless fish seasoned with salt is fried to crispy perfection. The batter, a mix of gram flour, turmeric, and salt, encapsulates the fish, creating a delectable snack embodying the inventive spirit of Lakshadweep's cuisine.

Maasu Podichath:

Explore the true flavour of Lakshadweep through Maasu Podichath, where dried tuna (Maasu) is chopped and mixed with shredded coconut, onion, garlic, chilli powder, turmeric powder, and salt. Enjoyed with rice or roti, this dish takes you on a culinary adventure, celebrating the diverse culture of the island.

Batla Appam:

Beloved by Androth Islanders, Batla Appam is a sweet delight inspired by Southern Indian idlis. Crafted with eggs, flour, sugar, and cardamom, this steamed treat mirrors the preparation method of idlis, making it a customary choice for celebrations and festivals.


A classic local sweet, Kadalakka, also known as kadalakka pola or kadala pathil, is a moist and nutritious cake made from chana dal or Bengal gram. Slow-cooked with lentils and eggs, enriched with cashews and raisins, it exemplifies the culinary creativity of the region, often prepared using pressure cookers.


Kilanji, a crepe-like delicacy made from rice and eggs, finds its perfect pairing with a sweet and watery blend of coconut milk, banana, and jaggery. This delightful dish is a common sight at weddings and other joyous gatherings.


Highlighting one of Lakshadweep's renowned fish, tuna, Sannath pays tribute to coastal flavours. It involves a gently simmered coconut curry, achieving perfection in cooking the fish.

The Maldives

A Gastronomic Melting Pot:

The cuisine of the Maldives is a delightful blend influenced by neighbouring countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, the Mediterranean, and Southeast Asian nations. Over time, this cuisine has adapted to changing global trends and exposure to the wider world. As an island nation surrounded by the sea, our traditional culinary fare revolves around three key ingredients: fish, coconut, and rice.

The Role of Fish:

The preferred fish in the Maldivian diet is primarily skipjack tuna, available in either dried or fresh form. Other fish varieties commonly consumed include little tunny (latti), yellowfin tuna (kanneli), frigate tuna (raagondi), bigeye scad (mushimas), wahoo (kurumas), mahi-mahi (fiyala), and mackerel scad (rimmas).  Processed tuna, known locally as Maldives fish, is utilised in the form of pieces or shavings. Dry processed tuna is primarily used in creating short eats (hedhika) like gulha, masroshi, kulhi bōkiba, kavaabu, bajiya (the local version of the Indian samosa), and fathafolhi. When mixed with coconut, onions, and chilli, it becomes a staple Maldivian breakfast known as mas huni. An indispensable item in Maldivian cuisine is the thick brown paste made from tuna, known as rihaaku.

Coconut Dreams

The tropical landscape of our island is characterised by abundant coconut palms, which contribute significantly to Maldivian dishes. Coconut is employed in various forms – grated, as milk, or as coconut oil, often used for deep-frying. It holds a prominent place in Maldivian traditional cuisine, imparting a creamy essence to dishes, especially curries. While rice is a fundamental component of our local meals, it's worth noting that it's not locally cultivated. Similar to many Asian countries, a Maldivian meal is completed with rice and accompanied by side dishes featuring lime, chillies, and onions.

10 Must Try Dishes In The Maldives


Explore this traditional Maldivian dish, a staple among locals. Garudhiya is a fragrant fish soup made with fish, water, and salt, served alongside lime, rice, chilli, and onions.

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Kukulhu Riha:

Indulge in gently braised chicken immersed in a delightful coconut-based sauce, subtly spiced with curry leaves, cardamom, and fiery scotch bonnets. Enjoy it with steamed rice or roshi.


A Maldivian breakfast staple, Mashuni combines boiled, canned, or smoked tuna with shredded coconut, sliced onions, lime, and chillies. For added nutrition, vegetables like pumpkin, gourd, and aubergines are incorporated. Best enjoyed with roshi and a cup of robust black tea.


Delight in the variety of rice pudding, Bondibaiy, blending white rice, coconut milk, and sugar. Cooked until the rice absorbs the milk, it attains a thickened consistency. Often enjoyed during special occasions like Eid, it comes in variations with breadfruit and Godhan.


Relish a golden dough ball generously filled with a tuna-coconut mixture, enriched with the warmth of turmeric. A favoured tea-time snack for many.

Foni Faaroshi:

Savour the simplicity of Foni Faaroshi, a sweet delight crafted with ground rusks, bananas, sugar, and grated coconut. Especially cherished during Maahefun, a traditional feast before Ramadan.

Naaruhfalida or Lado:

Delight in a sweet confection made from breadfruit and coconut syrup, a local delicacy from the southern islands of the Maldives.

Bis Keemiya:

Enjoy the unique Bis Keemiya, a pastry filled with tuna/hard boiled egg, sliced onions, and sautéed shredded cabbage, akin to a samosa and spring roll, making for a delightful snack.

Boshi Mashuni:

Experience the fusion of salsa and salad in Boshi Mashuni, featuring crunchy, shredded banana flowers and fresh coconut. Enhanced with curry leaves, turmeric, and cumin, it gains a tangy twist from spices, lime, and Maldivian chilli.


Embrace the tradition with Rihaakuru, a thick fish paste cooked for an extended period. This spicy delicacy is a favourite in Maldivian households, enjoyed by tearing off a piece of roshi and dipping it in Rihaakuru until satisfaction.

When you see them side by side, it's easy to draw parallels between the cuisines of these two seafood-loving island clusters, and while each offers up a unique experience, it's interesting to see how much food can bring cultures together.