Mauritians know too well that the only way to your heart is through your stomach. The moment you get off the plane, it seems the whole population is conspiring to get your mouth as watery as it can get. Tangy, spicy, saucy, crunchy, steamy or flaming hot – they have it all. So here’s your precious parchment to the must-try food on your escapade to Dodoland.
The Roti has a rock-solid symbolism on the island, dating back to colonial time. Back in the day it was elaborately prepared by housewives of Indian origin for their respective husband upon the latter coming back from the fields. It was used as a sort of utensil to dig into other prepared dishes. Today, it’s overwhelmingly consumed, any time of the day and on the go with virtually every street on the island having its own Roti place. First, they spread curry (either lima or kidney beans) on the Roti (flat round bread) to which they then add “rougaille”, a tangy tomato salsa with ginger, spring onions and garlic. They then finish off with a smear of crushed chili, a handful opting to enjoy it best with whole chilies. Vegetable pickle is often added.
Your “open sesame” to ordering this dish is to simply utter the words “ene bol cinq” (a bowl of 5). Posthaste, the vendor will serve you a steaming mix of dumplings offering delectable textures and tastes. Locked inside the dumplings is a mixture of chayote, dried prawns, chicken and/or pork. Beef meatballs, fish balls and tofu complete the holy five. Either opts for digging into it as a snack or as a soup with a clear broth poured over it. It is sprinkled with fresh spring onions and …you’ve guessed it by now, CHILI!
Speaking of chili, here we are with what will be the inescapable food during your stay on the island. The gateau piment (chili fritters) is the King of breakfast, served in a crunchy baguette. Purists, however, enjoy it on its own, or simply dipped in a coriander/tomato sauce. This bite-size ball is a savant concoction of blended split peas, finely chopped onions, coriander, cumin and last but not least, chili. It is deep-friend until golden brown in colour. Crunchy on the outside and fluffy at the core, it will definitely win a few of your taste buds, if not all of them!
Departing from the Persian version and closer to the Indian one, the Biryani is one of the nation’s favourite. Known to be a very complex dish to prepare, it warrants over 3 hours in preparation. Star anise, ghee, ginger, garlic among others are thrown into hot oil, the aroma alerting the entire neighbourhood! Aranged in various layers, inside a massive aluminum cooking pot, meat (chicken, fish, beef or lamb), onions, potatoes, saffron and yogurt operate their magic. The outcome is fluffy rice with tender meat, crispy caramelized onions and creamy potatoes. This heaven on a spoon is served with atchard (vegetable or fruit pickle).
Forget anything you know about fruit salad for a moment. Picture bits of pineapple, cucumber, love apple, mango, guava and jew plum. Mix them all together and pour a tangy thick tamarind sauce all over it. To make things more interesting, add white vinegar to it and crushed chili. If you still can’t picture it, go see it for yourself at any beach or market on the island. We recommend coconut water to wash off the fiery chili on your palate!