Volunteer Jessie gives you the lowdown on the highlights of eating your meals with Atoll Volunteers…
The options for breakfast are western style or traditional Maldivian style. The newbie option is usually the continental breakfast, consisting of two chicken sausages, a sunny side up egg and three pieces of toasts, with a serving of jam and butter – my ‘go-to’ option when I’m after something simple and familiar. Drinks served for breakfast are the usual of tea and coffee (vanilla green tea is my favourite), ice cold milk and juice. The ice-cold milk is a powdered version of milk with added sugar, it is cold, milky and foamy and is great to start the morning with. The juice is known as ‘mystery juice’ because often it changes colour and flavour. The favourite version is the bright orange one which we think is a mix between mango and pineapple juice.
There is also the option of the traditional Maldivian breakfast, Roshi and Disku. Roshi is a soft tortilla like flatbread made with flour and coconut, and disku consists of the same ingredients but harder, like the edge of pizza crusts. Both can be served with jam (some volunteers bring their own condiments like peanut butter) or served with mashuni, composed of tuna, chilli, onion and copy faiy (Maldivian cabbage). Roshi Mashuni is very filling and eaten with your hands, I usually wrap my tuna mix in my roshi and eat it like a burrito.
There are many options for lunch and dinner; volunteers can choose from the menu any meal 50 MVR or under and one drink (except energy drinks and mocktails). Although I did not get a chance to sample everything from the menu, I enjoyed many of the options they offered and narrowed them down to some of my favourites and must-trys…
The tuna spaghetti or pasta is a must try and a favourite amongst many volunteers. It sounds basic and simple and something you can usually get in your home country; however, the flavour is slightly different, especially with the added chilli flakes, this meal is one I will miss. I would have liked to try the spaghetti with garlic sauce, however, some volunteers have warned me against this and mentioned the garlic was overpowering, nevertheless tuna spaghetti (without cheese) is my absolute favourite and I would have this almost every second night for dinner.
Next on my favourites list would be a tie between the chicken and vegetable burger. The brioche buns of the burgers are always toasted to perfection, served with a side of chips and coleslaw. The chicken patty is never dry and always crispy; I like to add the coleslaw mix to my burger and some chilli sauce. The vegetable burger is not the usual and expected vegetable patty, instead it is an array of vegetables sautéed in a little bit of curry powder and placed between two brioche buns with a slice of melted cheese, another favourite for lunch as it is lighter than the chicken version. If you’re after something even lighter than a burger, I would opt for the chicken panino, also served with a side of chips and coleslaw. The chicken panino is a pressed sandwich with a delicious filling made of diced chicken breast sautéed with onions, sandwich-pressed together with a slice of cheese.
If you’re after something more traditional or local, try the vegetable/chicken/tuna kothu roti. Try not to be discouraged by its unfamiliar looks and unique name, this is by far the most filling dish. I have personally only tried the vegetable version of this Maldivian tradition, which originally came from Sri Lanka. It consisted of a variety of vegetables stir-fried together in shredded roti with egg pieces and curry spices.
And lastly, the noodles. The sausage noodles and mushroom noodles are another favourite option for lunch. The flavours of the noodles don’t generally change too much with the different main ingredient it, it has the usual Asian fried noodle flavours but the mushrooms add extra texture and the sausage option hits the spot when I’m craving something a little saltier.
For the drinks, my favourite would be a tie between the vanilla milkshake and iced milo, a close second would be the coconut juice. There are many juice options ranging from apple to carrot and fresh coconut juice, all made with fresh fruits thus not all options are always available. During dinner, sometimes I like to have a cup of hot green tea while others like to sip on Bombay tea, a tea that tastes like chai latte. There are many options for drink choices including coffee, tea, juices, milkshakes, and soft drinks.
There is a wide variety of meals and drinks for the volunteers and I was always satisfied with my choices, one night we even had a special meal of freshly caught octopus in curry. After dinner, as per tradition, a game or several games of cards is played amongst the volunteers before bedtime. It was an enjoyable two weeks volunteering in Naifaru, having sampled delicious new cuisines and lived a new way of life, it was my first volunteering trip and won’t be my last.