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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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Maldives islands in the Indian Ocean, to the south-west of the southern tip of india and to the west of sri lanka. These islands, which now constitute an Islamic republic, were thought by Marco Polo to number over 12,000, but the modern count is close to just 1,200, of which 200 or so are inhabited. The republic is unique in having far more than 99 per cent of its extensive territory be sea; the land area adds up to only about the same as Singapore.

The sea and the lagoons provide the dominant feature of the diet, which is fish. It is likely to come with rice, onion, coconut, chilli pepper, and lime juice; and it is likely to be either one of the numerous reef fish or a species of tuna. Some tuna is sold fresh in the islands; some is canned; and much is either smoked (valhoamas) or smoked and sun dried (hikimas). This is the ‘Maldive fish’ which is such an important feature of cookery in Sri Lanka, usually finely ground, to become a potent flavouring and thickening agent.