7 must-try desi dishes in Mauritius

Seema Wadhwa
Saturday, 14 March 2020

With a large number of Indians in Mauritius, the local cuisine includes lots of dishes with Indian flavours. Here’s what you must try if you want a taste of home.

A picturesque island nation in the East of Africa, Mauritius is popularly regarded as heaven on Earth. A favourite destination among honeymooners and beach enthusiasts, the place offers a culturally immersive experience that extends beyond a tropical vacation. As soon as you step on this sapphire water paradise, you will spot many Indo-Mauritians, so much so that the place has a moniker — Chota Bharat (mini India). 

The sight of many an Indian face or rather Mauritians with roots that date way back to India is not a mere coincidence but a result of history. In the 17th century the French rule migrated as many as 17,000 Indians as slaves and some as free men to Mauritius. A huge majority of the population migrated from present-day Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and a minority from Mumbai. 

This was followed by the British rule in the 18th century which led to a boom of sugarcane fields inviting work opportunities for more migrants from India. The successive generations went on to become citizens of Mauritius in the 20th century.

The Indian diaspora brought a wave of their culture, religion and, most importantly, cuisine to the country. Indian food is now an integral part of the country’s culinary map. 

We curated a list of some of the must-try dishes in Mauritius that sing of Indian flavours.

Dholl Puri is a flat wheat bread preparation, similar to a roti, wrapped around yellow split peas, pickle, bean curry and chutney. A quintessential snack among Mauritians, it can be spotted at most street food stalls. Although it is a snack, this predominantly Indian dish is as satiating and wholesome as a meal.

A half-moon shaped fluffy pastry, Gâteau De Patate is a sweet delicacy and a must-have during Diwali celebrations in Mauritius. It is stuffed with sweet potatoes, cardamom, coconuts, and appears similar in taste and texture to a Karanji or a Gujiya. Apart from the festivities, it is often enjoyed as a tea-time snack as well.

A dip or accompaniment to the course of a meal, one will find Piment ecrasés served and refilled at most Mauritian restaurants. This blend of garlic, crushed chillies, and a tinge of citrus is most often enjoyed with freshly baked pieces of bread before a meal. When asked about this green paste, every server responds with a simple word, ‘Chilli’.

The cold dessert — Falooda in India and Alouda in Mauritius — has much more in common than phonetics. Alouda is a Mauritian rendition of the popular Falooda, enjoyed on a hot summer day. It is a cold milk-based preparation of dissolved agar-agar (a gelatinous substance), basil seeds, fruit syrup for colour, vanilla and almond essence added to milk.

As the name suggests, Roti Chaud is a hot roti filled with Grois Pois (butter bean curry) and Rougaille (a tomato-based sauce with a combination of rich flavours such as onion, garlic, thyme, ginger, cilantro and curry leaves.) This stuffed roti is then finally served as a wrap with chutneys and pickles on the side. It is conceptually similar to a Dholl Puri but offers distinct flavours.     

The archard legumes are inspired by the Indian achaar and served as a side to meals. It primarily consists of carrots, cabbages, French beans, and vegetable oil. Blended with vinegar or mustard in most cases, it is often paired with rice.

A typical Mauritian Chicken Biryani draws Hyderabadi Dum Biryani flavours. It is prepared with long-grained Basmati rice, however, in this case, potatoes replace the traditional Kashmiri chillies helping it to soak the flavours better, and adding a distinct texture to the dish. The aroma of spices, however, remains equally enticing.

(Seema Wadhwa is a Mumbai-based travel writer)

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