We did not spend the $1,000 per night for island bungalows isolated on paradise island getaways. We stayed in guesthouses in the local community. That said the cost of living on these islands is high. Everything, except for the fish, was shipped to the islands.
There were a few eateries on each island. All had excellent service and some great simple cuisine. Average dish costs ~40-80 MVR ($3-$5). (These prices were more than what we had been paying on the trip, with the exception of the meal in Male which cost $33. As we moved from Mahibadhoo to Dhangethi the prices jumped up. There was only three restaurants on Dhangethi, unless we wanted the hotel to prepare a meal for us (which ran more than $30 per meal). We did splurge twice on that because the Garam Masala was so good. In Dhigurah, we found several places to eat, but we enjoyed the East Cafe the most (and found it comparable in pricing to the only two non-hotel based restaurants on Dhangethi).
The second time we splurged, the cook in Dhangethi gave us a cooking lesson. In their simple kitchen they whooped up a a great tasting curry marsala. The cook, Alongir, had trained in Calcutta, but he was from Bangladesh. He showed us what spices to use and their portions.
A snack item that I found particularly delicious was coconut and honey. It was rolled together in a cigar like stick and wrapped in dried banana leaves.
This dish had five elements: Ground cinnamon/cardamom, cloves, a white paste, a betel leaf, and slices areca nut. Our waiter showed us how to eat it. Place the sliced areca on a piece of betel leaf, put some paste on it with a toothpick, put a clove and sprinkle cinnamon on it. Then pop it in the mouth and chew. All of us had a similar reaction: “There is a lot going on in our mouth right now.” There were explosions of flavor and not all of them were enjoyable. Everything happened at once: Bitterness, tang, spiciness (from the clove and cinnamon), burst of minty coolness. Some people said it contained natural sedatives which would make us drowsy. Alyssa certainly was subject to to the power of suggestion and felt drowsy and faint shortly afterwards. (Read more about the dish: Click Here)
There was fish everywhere in the Maldives. When sitting for dinner we would watch locals pull up in the boats and carry fish after fish out of the boat. When it wasn’t raining, we walked by giant smoker BBQ pits where people smoked fish over coconut husk fires. When walking around the island I saw a local family preparing food. While two of them separated fish heads from bodies, another person put parts of the fish in one pot and the other parts in another. The matriarch of the family stirred giant cauldrons of soup, while looking out over the ocean. Why cook indoors, when this could be your kitchen window view?