7 must-try desi dishes in Mauritius
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.
GÂTEAU DE PATATE, SWEET POTATO CAKE
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.
PIMENT ECRASÉS, CHILLI PASTE
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.
MAURITIAN CHICKEN BIRYANI
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)