My best friend’s, Zelia’s birthday was on the 29th of December. As I was in Belgium I could participate on her party. Reading the motto of her invitation- Let’s go to Mauritius!- I became excited because I knew that she spent her honeymoon in the island last year but since we havent’ met. So I was really looking forward to hearing every little details of her adventures.
“For a tiny island of only 1 million people, Mauritius has an incredibly rich and diverse food culture, infused with influences from its mélange of inhabitants (Creole, French, Chinese and Indian people). The island is also blessed with fertile soil, so the local produce is incredible – from super-sized vegetables to sweet fruits”.-so that she began her “review” when everyone took her/his place at the table.
“The street food was fantastic in Mauritius – from fresh coconut water, chopped fruit covered in chilli and sugar- to hot curries topped with chilli and pickles wrapped in buttery breads, and Chinese fried noodles. Mauritius also had many fabulous restaurants – from local eateries with authentic food to gourmet places that served Mauritian fusion food. We took the advice of our hotel owner, who suggested that not to stay in the hotel, but rather explore the island and it’s amazing food.
First we found stalls on the street selling dholl puris all over Mauritius, but the very best place to get them was at Dewa in Rose-Hill. Dholl puris are thought to be derived from Indian flatbread, paratha. Indian immigrants to Mauritius couldn’t get the ingredients to make the bread on the island, and their substitute, a fried thin bread stuffed with ground yellow split peas, and served in a pair with bean curry, atchar and chutney.”-and saying that she offered the first appetizer which was a wrap filled with poultry or fish accompanied by shredded lettuce, diced tomato, guacamole, spring onions and honey mustard or joghurt-mayonnaise sauce.
“Gajak was our second discovery on the island which was a snack. They were being sold from glass boxes on the back of motorbikes or at food stalls near markets, beaches and on the side of the road. We ate the deep fried variety, tried the samoosas, gateau aubergine (eggplant fritters), manioc goujons (cassava chips) and gateau patat (potato fritters). (She made eggplant quiche).
“When we got bored with the Indian cuisine, we gave a try to the Cantonese food (thanks to the Chinese population of the island). It was worth since I had the best dim sum at First Restaurant in Port Louis. -continued Jan, Zelia’s husband. “We found typical Cantonese dim sum with Mauritian touches, such as shrimp and taro dumplings as well. I had learned only later that Mauritians have made their own dim sum as well, which was called boulet – these were dumplings made from fish, prawns, or chou chou (a pear-shaped vegetable). Boulet are usually steamed and then eaten in a fish broth with lots of chilli.
This Mauritian dish is supposedly adapted from the Indian vindaloo, although there’s debate about this. It’s cooked with mustard, garlic, ginger, turmeric, onion and usually fish, although it can be made with vegetables instead. It’s served with rice, lentils, pickles and chutneys. It was delicious- (instead of vindaye Zelia prepared prawns in vanilla-coconut sauce, see the picture)
Ingredients: 1 tablespoon butter, 16 prawns (also called tiger or jumbo shrimp), peeled, deveined, tail on, 1 vanilla bean, split, 1/2 cup coconut milk, twisted from freshly grated coconut in a cheesecloth, Salt and ground black pepper
Directions: In a medium saute pan, melt the butter. Add the prawns and vanilla bean and let them saute for 2 minutes. Add the coconut milk and let it thicken. When the prawns are completely cooked, season with the salt and pepper and serve
The cheap vanilla that’s sold to tourists in Mauritius’ markets and souvenir shops was not actually Mauritian – it’s poor quality vanilla from Madagascar. The only place where we could buy Mauritian-grown vanilla was at St Aubin, a restored colonial mansion that had a small vanilla plantation and rhumerie (their coffee rum is delicious, by the way). First we visited the deliciously-fragranced Vanilla House where we learned how vanilla was grown, took a look at the vanilla plants in the garden, and then had a feast on chicken cooked in vanilla and vanilla creme brulee in the restaurant, on the veranda of the fabulous old sugar plantation mansion.
We also visited the famous Bois Cheri tea estate, it was located in the south of the island, there were grown the black teas (they were mixed with Ceylon tea imported from Sri Lanka, and vanilla flavouring imported from South Africa, to produce a delicious black vanilla tea). We came accross with the vanilla tea all over the island (simply the Air of Mauritius was filled with the aroma) but the best place to drink it was at the Bois Cheri cafe after our tour of the tea factory and a tea tasting. On the top of that the cafe had incredible views over the tea plantation fields, fringed with palm trees, and the southern coastline. We ordered a “cuppa” with a tasty tea-infused dessert such as tea sorbet, and my hubby with a papaya panacotta with tea jelly. Of course we took some Bois Cheri tea from the shop to home.
There’s rum and then there’s rum. While Mauritian rum isn’t up to the standard of Reunion island or the Caribbean, it was pretty good, especially at one of the three distilleries on the island the produce agricole rum (that’s rum made the proper way, from sugar cane juice instead of molasses). St Aubin and Chateau Labourdonnais produce great rums (do a rum tasting at each spot and try them out yourself) but Rhumerie de Chamarel in Chamarel, in the south west, makes award-winning double-distilled rum that’s been aged in oak. It’s a cut above the others.
All three distilleries produce rum arrange, infused rum with various flavours, such as vanilla, coffee, kumquat, spices and citrus fruit (we bought one with coffee). These rums are sweetened with sugar so are a bit more palatable if you’re not a huge rum person!
Ti rum: Short for ‘petit rum punch’, this was drunk all over the island, with different ingredients added into a base of rum and sugar syrup. My favourite was ti rum punch by Graham, made with fresh citrus fruit juice. You could buy ready-made ti rum punch from Rhumerie de Chamarel. We bought two bottles one with coffee flavour and the other one with citrus fruit.
As dessert we got two kinds of Chamarel rum drink
Chamarel Ti punch recipe: ingredients: 3 cl premium white rum, 4-5 slices lime, 2 tbsp of brown sugar, crushed ice
Place the lime and sugar into a glass and muddle. Fill the glass with crushed ice and add the premium white rum!
3 cl coffee liqueur, mint cream (after eight, melted) whipped cream
Fill the glass with coffee liqueur. Pour the mint cream slowly and add the whipped cream to it.
4 cl mandarin liqueur, ice cubes, orange juice, pineapple juice, Angostura bitter
fill the glass with ice cubes and add the mandarin liqueur. pour the fruit juices slowly and add the Angostura.
Mauritius’ local beer, Phoenix, is an award-winning, crisp, refreshing lager that goes well with pretty much anything you’ll eat on the island, and is great by itself, drunk at sunset on the beach.