For an island of just over a million people, Mauritius has no shortage of rich history and culture. Food is a big part of that history and culture and has been influenced by its diverse population of Creole, French, Chinese and Indian people. The quality of the local produce is fantastic and you can get just about anything to eat on the island of beautiful beaches, and tropical luxury. Once you’ve swum in the blue seas, tanned on the white sand and explored the historical sites, you’ll have worked up quite an appetite. Here’s my pick of just eleven of the island’s best things to tantalise your taste buds.
1. Dhollpuri / Dal puri
All over the island, you’ll find street stalls selling this popular dish of fried thin bread (small pancakes) stuffed with ground yellow split peas and served with bean curry, atchar (a spicy condiment usually made from mango and chilli) and chutney. If Mauritius had a single national dish, this would probably be it.
It’s expected that Mauritius should have great curries thanks to the island’s strong Indian community and influence. They might be a little different to what you are used to from Durban or India despite the curry base of garlic, onion, fresh curry leaves and spices being very similar. There is justso much variety. Mauritian curries are served with rice or flat bread and accompaniments of chutney and chilli (masavaroo). Be sure to try the octopus curry; it’s very popular.
3. Vanilla Tea
You’ll find the delicious black vanilla tea all over the island. Visit a tea plantation, take a tour of the factory and taste the tea (Bois Chéri tea estate is a good place to do this). This strong yet refined tea is usually served black and in the morning.
A lot of Mauritian cuisine revolves around seafood, obviously. Whether you are eating curries or stews, Chinese or Indian, the meal will more than likely be seafood-heavy. You can feast on seafood prepared in any way you like; fried, baked, or grilled. Mauritius = the seafood lovers’ heaven.
For hundreds of years, the island of Mauritius was synonymous with the sugar industry. Today, sugar is still a main export and some of the world’s best. Try up to nine different and delicious sugars at L’Aventure du Sucre, a unique museum which traces the history of sugar on the island and its impact on the lives and people of the country.
These are Mauritian snacks, usually deep-fried, which are sold at food stalls just about anywhere, at the beach, on the side of the road and near the markets. Do try a gateau aubergine (eggplant fritter) or gateau patat (potato fritter); thin slices of the vegetable battered in chick pea with fresh herbs, spices and chilli, of course.
7. Dim Sum
Thanks to the island’s substantial Chinese population, you’ll be able to taste some scrumptious Cantonese food. Try shrimp or taro dumplings with a Mauritian touch. Boulet is a Mauritian original; these are dumplings made from fish, prawns or vegetables which are steamed and eaten in a kind of fish soup with lots of chilli.
Noticing a pattern here, are you?
8. Fish Vindaye
This dish is incredibly well-known and is said to come from the Indian Vindaloo but there has been much debate about this. There is no debate, however, on how delicious the dish is. Cooked in mustard, garlic, onions and turmeric, this fish-based cuisine (although it can be prepared with vegetables instead), is served with rice, lentils, pickles and an assortment of chutneys.
Drink from a coconut, eat a coconut, sample a delicious coconut chutney or cook with a coconut ingredient. Whatever you do, don’t leave the island without buying one from a beach vendor or sipping on one at a restaurant. You won’t be disappointed.
10. Palm Heart Salad
This is a Mauritian delicacy also known as the Millionaire’s Salad(probably because once the heart is extracted, the entire tree will die). Palm trees grow for around seven years before they are cut down to cut out the inner tube, which feeds about three people as a starter. The tube is thinly sliced and eaten raw in salad or cooked in a sauce.
This very popular rice dish originates from India, too. Made with beef, chicken, fish, mutton or vegetables and served with yoghurt, saffron and spices, you can’t go far wrong in ordering this as your next meal.