As Mauritius celebrates its 51st year of independence in March 2019, we take a look some of the island republic’s must-try dishes
It’s famous for its legendary beaches, pristine waters, lagoons and reefs – and a host of plush hotels and resorts. But Mauritius, located about 2,000km off the southeast coast of Africa, is more than just a “honeymoon destination”. Thanks to a fascinating history revolving around Dutch colonisation ((1638-1710), followed by takeover by the French (1715-1810), and ending with independence from the British after a 158-year rule, Mauritius is home to one of the greatest Creole cuisines.
Featuring native African, French, Chinese and Indian influences inspired by former slaves, Indian workers and Chinese migrants arriving during the 19th century, Mauritian cuisine is wonderfully complemented by an array of dishes that are unique to the island.
As Mauritius celebrates its independence on March 12, we pay homage to the island republic’s most popular foods that ought to be on every foodie’s MUST-EAT list!
One of the most popular savoury (and handy) snacks in Mauritius, Dholl Puri is a pancake-style flatbread originating from Indian Parathas. They are made from ground yellow split peas that is well seasoned with cumin and turmeric, and griddled on a flat pan. Often served in pairs, it’s usually accompanied by savoury dishes such as Mauritian Rougaille or Chicken Curry.
A classic, well-loved Mauritian dish, Rougaille (pronounced ‘roo-guy’) is essentially a tomato-based ‘stew’ oozing with rich flavours thanks to a mix of herbs and spices used such as coriander, spring onions, thyme, chilies and curry leaves. You could add any protein you like to this flavourful base, served with rice, bread or even noodles.
With one-third of the population of Mauritius comprising of Indians by 1845, curries became part of the island’s culinary spectrum, available in various flavours, served with rice, roti or Dholl Puri. One of the unique local delicacies is Carri Sauve Souris, or bat curry, as well as octopus curry and wild- boar curry. Mauritian versions, however, usually do not contain coconut like Asian curries.
A signature curry dish believed to have been inspired by the Indian Vindaloo, Fish Vindaye is flavour- packed and intense, featuring fish cooked with mustard seeds, garlic, turmeric, chilli and onions pickled in vinegar to give it a distinctive taste and flavour. Often a little tangy, it’s usually served with rice, baguettes and vegetables.
Mauritius is home to a range of lip-smacking Cantonese food (thanks to its Chinese population), with quite the inspiring dim sum scene – all with Mauritian touches, of course. The Mauritian Dim Sum, called Boulet, is made from fish, prawns, taro or chayote (an exotic pear-shaped vegetable). The dumplings are steamed and then eaten in a fish broth.
A popular snack sold by street vendors all over the island, Gateau Piment are chilli cakes (made from split peas (dholl), red or green chilies, coriander, onions and cumin) that are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. An irresistible appetiser (or all-day snack), the deep-fried, golden brown balls are usually served with a baguette, accompanied with hot sauce or chutney.
Bol Renverser (Upside Down Bowl)
This is another Chinese delice featuring Chinese sauces accompanied with stir-fried vegetables, chicken, prawns and Chinese sweet sausages. All of this is assembled in reverse in a bowl and turned upside down when served. The finishing touch is a fried egg placed on top of the dome.
Mauritius is a haven for fresh seafood, and the Millionaire’s Salad presents the freshness of its produce on a plate for seafood and salad lovers. Apart from oysters, shrimp, crayfish, prawns, smoked marlin and crabs, it also comprises salad leaves and a palm tree heart, a vegetable taken from the inner core of certain palm trees. Sauce rouge (red sauce) is used as dressing on the Millionaire’s Salad.
Simply irresistible hot-off-the-wok fried snacks, Gajaks are sold by street vendors in and around the markets of Mauritius. These goodies are made from strips of vegetables such as aubergine, cassava and potato, and battered in perfectly seasoned chickpea flour – with a generous dash of herbs and chilli. Gajaks are usually accompanied with spicy chutneys.
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