By: Ali Ibrahim
Illustrations by: Fathmath Azleena
Addu Atoll, or Addu City as it’s currently known, has so many unique characteristics that make it stand out from the rest of the atolls in the Maldives. This includes a dialect of its own, rich cultural heritage, unique geography and native birds such as Dhondheeni (White Tern) to name a few.
Addu also has a special place in local cuisine. Addu Bendi, or Addu Bondi as it’s known in other parts of the country, is synonymous with the people of the southernmost atoll in the archipelago. Same goes for Addu Havaadhu – a ‘brand’ just like Garudhiya (fish broth) and Rihaakuru (fish paste). Although Addu Havaadhu gets its name from Addu and is popular for being native to the atoll, it is also prepared in neighboring southern atolls of Huvadhoo and Fuvahmulah as well.
But what makes Addu Havaadhu so special?
It’s been said that the necessary ingredients to prepare Addu Havaadhu were not available elsewhere in the Maldives. The basic ingredients were brought in from other countries by native traders of Addu who traveled to neighboring countries such as India and Sri Lanka directly from Addu. They brought in the ingredients, cultivated them in different parts of Addu and used them to prepare Addu Havaadhu. Now, these ingredients are once again imported into the Maldives!
Addu Havaadhu is traditionally prepared for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It’s a social gathering where families or neighbors gather in one of the houses and prepare Havaadhu. The mixing and cooking are accompanied by fun-filled activities for the entire family, making it a pre-Ramadan celebration spanning at least two to three days.
The ingredients used to prepare Addu Havaadhu are too many to keep track of. They also vary from people to people but the basic ingredients have stayed the same throughout history. They include Kothambiri (coriander), Dhaviggadhu (fennel seeds) and Dhiri (cumin seeds), onion, cardamom, cinnamon, dried chili, curry leaves, pandan leaves, turmeric powder and many more! These fundamental ingredients alone make it richer and more flavorsome than the famous Indian equivalent of Garam Masala.
Preparation techniques also have slight variations, but the fundamentals are quite similar to the way Indian curry powders are prepared. Firstly, all the ingredients are sun-dried. They are then roasted in a wok and mixed with grated coconut. The mix is ground using a hand grinder until it partially becomes a paste. The paste is set aside for some time before packing it in containers.
Addu Havaadhu was originally prepared for personal or family use, making it a more quality alternative to curry powders used elsewhere in the Maldives. It was introduced to Male and the rest of the country when inhabitants of Addu began to migrate to the capital city in the early 1980s. Like native Addu people, Maldivians across the archipelago were drawn to the rich taste of dishes prepared with Addu Havaadhu.
The most popular dish made from Addu Havaadhu is Addu Reha, a tuna curry made just from Addu Havaadhu. Have you wondered why traditional Maldivian chicken curry tastes so good? Or what gives the unique taste to the Kulhimas (sautéed tuna chunks) you get with the Bondibaiy (rice pudding) distributed after naming a child? The magic is all in Addu Havaadhu!
Finally, for the people of Addu, Addu Reha to break their fast and Hanaakuri Mas for the midnight Haaru is a must during Ramadan!
The magic ingredient in the world famous Indian cuisine is the native curry powder (Havaadhu) used in those dishes. Likewise, Addu Havaadhu has become one of the key ingredients that make Maldivian food so mouth-watering. And so, culinary experts believe that Addu Havaadhu can be branded and promoted abroad – as a symbol of Maldivian culture and cuisine – just like Indian Masala.