Maldivian cuisine is a treasure trove of vibrant tastes and flavors, influenced by neighboring countries and enriched by a combination of essential ingredients like fish, coconuts, and moringa. Among these flavors, fried moringa, locally known as "Theluli Faiy," holds a special place in every Maldivian household. The process of making this delectable dish on Fulidhoo Island brought me closer to the heart of the community and introduced me to a remarkable woman whose resilience and dedication left an indelible mark on my heart.
Growing up, my fascination with different cultures and their cuisine led me on a journey to Fulidhoo Island. It was there that I fortuitously stumbled upon a sweet and humble lady, whose life had been shaped by numerous hardships, transforming her into a strong and independent woman. As I sat down on a traditional Maldivian seat known as "Joali," I struck up a conversation with her, eager to learn more about her daily life and the culinary wonders she created.
To my delight, the kind lady welcomed me into her home, a simple yet beautiful abode surrounded by lush vegetation. Coconut trees, mango trees, and more adorned her surroundings, showcasing the abundance of nature on the island. Her father, seated nearby, prepared coconuts for the day, offering me a refreshing coconut water as I observed the making of fried moringa.
In a communal setting, the lady gathered fresh moringa leaves from her own tree and led me to an open-air community hall right in front of her home. Her daughter and neighboring children eagerly joined us, finding my interest in documenting this seemingly mundane process intriguing. As they snacked on coconut and tuna paste, their laughter filled the air, accompanied by stories of their everyday lives.
The women swiftly plucked the moringa leaves, showcasing their dexterity and making the process seem effortless. Chopping onions with an efficient device, they maintained a cheerful atmosphere while the children played joyfully in the hall. Meanwhile, I caught sight of men engaging in a creative project using palm leaves, adding an artistic touch to the vibrant surroundings.
As the rain poured down, a serene ambiance enveloped us. The lady then guided me back to her kitchen, a harmonious blend of classic and modern elements. She poured oil into a pan, sharing her special technique to fry the onions without making them soggy. Engrossed in her stories, I marveled at her dedication and hard work, finding inspiration in her unwavering spirit.
Time flew by as the onions turned perfectly crispy and golden. Intrigued, I complimented her on the flawless outcome, and with a smile, she promised an even more remarkable process—the frying of the moringa leaves. I watched in awe as she delicately added small portions of the leaves into the boiling oil, swiftly removing them once perfectly fried. Her precision and mastery of oil temperature and leaf quantity amazed me, ensuring a sublime taste and texture.
With great care, she combined the fried onions and moringa, creating a jar full of this culinary delight. Although some prefer to add fried tuna chips into the mixture, she excluded them due to her daughter's preference. I discovered that this fried moringa was a delicacy in itself, tempting me to savor it as it is, without the accompaniment of rice or other Maldivian dishes.
My experience with the remarkable lady and the process of making fried moringa will forever be etched in my memory. This truly is a must-try delight if you visit Maldives.
A Curious Mind