The island of Mauritius contains a diverse population and a similarly diverse range of foods. There are dishes found in Mauritius that are available in few other places in the world. Traditionally, Mauritian food is spicy, with influences from Indian, Creole, African and Chinese cuisine.
The dishes of Mauritius also contain French and European flavours and over the centuries all of these cuisines have blended their traditional dishes, herbs and spices together to create truly unique flavours.
The only word of caution with Mauritian cuisine is to taste food before adding extra chillies, as many dishes will be hot. Many of the staple fruits, vegetables, fish, seafood and meats are grown or caught locally and there are dishes to suit all tastes.
There are many restaurants available in Mauritius, particularly Chinese restaurants. All the major hotels will have their own restaurant, often more than one. There are also plenty of street sellers who can provide a variety of snacks that are popular with locals as well as visitors.
Below are 5 traditional dishes those going on holiday this year should try when visiting Mauritius:
Curry (cari) is a favourite food and there are plenty of side dishes to choose from, including rice, roti, niouk nien (dumplings) or mine-frit (Chinese fried noodles.). Cari poule (usually chicken curry) is available in most restaurants and often from street sellers.
Curries and other Indian dishes entered Mauritian culture in the 1830s, with the importation of Indian labourers to work on the sugar plantations. By 1845, Indians comprised around one third of the population of Mauritius.
Curries are available in a variety of flavours, including the very hot Creole curry, often containing fish or meat. The Carri Sauve Souris, or bat curry, is also a local delicacy, as well as octopus curry and wild-boar curry.
Curries are available for both lunch and dinner. Lentil or bean curries are popular, along with meat, fish or seafood varieties. Mauritian curries are similar to the Indian versions. Vindaloo, masala and other types are just some of those on offer.
The key ingredients of most curries are tomatoes, garlic, ginger, turmeric and curry leaves. Unlike Asian curries, it is unusual for Mauritian ones to contain coconut. They will more commonly contain herbs such as thyme and parsley. If you feel adventurous enough, you can try cooking your own Mauritian curry.
Gateau piment or chilli cakes, are available from street sellers in small paper bags. These are popular snacks for many of the locals. They are tasty and usually served on bread and can sometimes be available as a side dish. They are usually eaten red-hot but can also be eaten cold.
With their French name but Indian origins, all visitors should try gateau piment. Made with split peas (dhal or dholl), they also contain red or green chillies, coriander, onions and cumin. Shaped into balls, gateau piment are then deep fried until golden brown.
Rougaille is also a very popular traditional dish. Served hot, this Creole tomato dish also contains onions, chillies, garlic and spices. It is often an important food at weddings and other ceremonies and is frequently a side dish with curries. Once rougaille is cooked, a variety of foods can be added, such as peas, soya, fish, meats, or even gateau piment. It is also a very quick dish to prepare, taking around ten minutes.
Mauritius offers many exotic fruits and fruit is a key part of the daily diet. Fruit salad is a popular dessert, often served with a side of unripened pickled fruits. A fruit salad can contain any number of fruits, such as apples, oranges, pineapples, mangoes, lychees, pawpaw, guava and other unusual exotic fruits. A favourite snack is sliced pineapple with chilli salt.
As well as fruit, local salad leaves are available. For seafood lovers, a Millionaire’s Salad is an ideal opportunity to experience the best of this local produce. This consists of salad leaves and a palm tree heart, a vegetable taken from the inner core of certain palm trees.
A variety of seafood is then added to the salad. This includes oysters, shrimp, crayfish, prawns, smoked marlin and crabs. Sauce rouge (red sauce) is used as dressing on the Millionaire’s Salad.
These are just some of the many popular dishes that are available in Mauritius. All visitors to the island should take the opportunity to try as many of them as possible, especially since it is difficult to experience these unique food fusions anywhere else in the world.