It is never a bad time to take a leap of faith and try your hand at a new dish, and for Ramadan this year, The Edition brings its readers the authentic, homegrown tastes of the Maldives, from decadent delights of the North to scrumptious savouries of the South
Grown all over the country, breadfruit is a versatile component used in several delectable dishes of varied textures and flavours. The fact that 'Banbukeyo', as it is locally known, would be used as the main ingredient in a dessert dish is deliciously unsurprising.
A bowl of Candied Breadfruit or 'Banbukeyo Bondibaiy' is one of the most decadent treats that Maldivian cuisine has to offer, and is a regular presence at special celebrations like weddings, graduations, Eids and baby naming ceremonies.
Although 'Bondibaiy' refers to sweetened rice, 'Banbukeyo Bondibaiy' omits the grain for breadfruit which has been cut into tiny squares for a similar but different texture.
Another feature that stands out against conventional western sweets, is that 'Bondibai', no matter the type, is nearly always served with a savoury snack - either a dry curry or 'Valhomas' (smoked tuna chips) as with this dish.
You can also ditch the accompaniment and the serving will still be perfect for sweetening your tastebuds after a spicy meal! Either way, 'Banbukeyo Bondibaiy' is not an unfamiliar name for those hailing from either the north or south of Maldives, although it seems, everyone adds their own home-grown twist to it!
Following is an apparently northern variant that graced this writer's tastebuds during a visit to the island of Hanimaadhoo in Haa Dhaalu Atoll.
Preparation time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour
1 ripe Breadfruit
4 cups of sugar
2-3 Cardamom pods split slightly to release flavour (Optional)
1 stick Cinnamon broken up into 1inch pieces (Optional)
2-3 tablespoons of either Rose Water or Jasmine Water (Optional, but encouraged!)
1. Peel and cut the breadfruit into small cubes.
2. Cook on medium heat for 20 minutes or until the cubes soften.
3. Drain the breadfruit.
4. Add sugar and mix well.
5. Add sliced pandan leaves (and cardamom pods, if using)
6. Simmer for 40 minutes or until the sugar has melted and breadfruit has turned a translucent golden brown.
7. Remove from heat and serve warm, perhaps with something spicy on the side and a palate cleansing tea!
Popular variants of the recipe involve the addition of a half cup of thin coconut milk, along with cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks during step two along with (if adding the thin coconut milk) an equal portion of thick coconut cream plus either 'finifen' (rose water) or 'maafen' (jasmine water) during step five. You can skip the coconut milk entirely, as with this recipe, and still add the floral water and spices for a beautifully rich aroma and flavour!
The version that omits the coconut milk, as expected, stores for much longer, especially when refrigerated.
Regardless of the variation being served, any dedicated foodie should add a bowl of Candied Breadfruit to their bucket list of scrumptious must-try Maldivian desserts - and don't forget your spicy-salty accompaniment!