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Alhi Boakibaa

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Nestled in the heart of the Maldives, the island of Nolhivaran in HDh Atoll stands as a keeper of a culinary legacy that spans generations. One of the time-honored dishes that have woven itself into the island’s rich cultural tapestry is “Alhi Boakibaa.” With roots dating back a century or more, this traditional dish has become a symbol of heritage and a testament to the island’s enduring flavors.

The Voice of Tradition

In an exclusive interview, Aisthu Adam, a 77-year-old resident of Kasthoorige in Nolhivaran, shared the recipe and history behind this treasured dish. Her familial ties to the dish trace back to her mother, who prepared Alhi Boakibaa in her teenage years – a tradition that has stood the test of time.

“Alhi Boakibaa” derives its name from the manner in which it’s prepared, involving the use of ash to bake the dish. Aisthu Adam recalls her mother’s tales of crafting this dish as a treat for special occasions and late-night gatherings.

Ingredients: A Symphony of Flavors

To embark on the journey of crafting Alhi Boakibaa, one must assemble an assortment of ingredients that come together to create a symphony of flavors. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Rice (soaked overnight)
  • Grated coconut (1 scraped coconut for every cup of rice)
  • Sliced and cut smoked tuna
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Dried chili
  • Cumin seeds
  • Ginger
  • Salt
  • Turmeric

Crafting Alhi Boakibaa: A Labor of Love

The preparation of Alhi Boakibaa is a meticulous process that requires care and patience. Begin by grinding the soaked rice using a traditional grinding stone. The rice flour is then combined with the grated coconut, sliced smoked tuna, onion, garlic, dried chili, cumin seeds, ginger, salt, and a touch of turmeric. This amalgamation can be either hand-mixed or ground together.

Once the mixture is well-combined, spread it evenly in a pot lined with banana leaves. The act of using banana leaves is a nod to the natural elements that have always played a role in Maldivian culinary practices. Then comes the heart of the dish’s name – the application of ash. A layer of ash, about an inch thick, is sprinkled atop the banana leaves.

The Traditional Cooking Process

Traditionally, Alhi Boakibaa was prepared over wooden stoves fueled by coconut husks or other plant husks. However, with the march of time, gas stoves have become the preferred choice for many. The dish requires patience and commitment, as the fire needs to be renewed about three times during the cooking process. A slow and steady approach yields the best results.

Aisthu Adam reminisces that in the days of old, Alhi Boakibaa was started in the evening and taken off the stove around midnight, making it an ideal late-night treat. The dish also found its place of honor during circumcision gatherings, adding warmth and flavor to the festivities.

The Culinary Heritage Lives On

As the Alhi Boakibaa emerges from the stove, its aroma encapsulates the history, culture, and flavors of Nolhivaran. Once cooled and set, the dish is transferred onto a plate and sliced into delectable pieces. It’s a labor of love, a culinary expression that connects generations and pays homage to the past.

This dish, with its distinct name and unique cooking process, continues to hold a special place in the hearts and palates of the people of Nolhivaran. It’s a tangible link to the island’s history, a celebration of tradition in the form of a delightful delicacy. So, whether enjoyed during late-night teas or festive gatherings, Alhi Boakibaa stands as a testament to the art of preserving heritage through food.

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