Foodgasms from Mauritius
Yes, it is true. People actually live in the island paradise apart from rich bums taking up hotel beaches. More than live there, people even work there, in cities… Now I don’t mean to sound demeaning to the lovely people from the Dodo island, but I was completely ignorant in this regard. I honestly thought only of hotels, room service, long buffet tables and cocktails on demand when I decided to visit a friend who lives in paradise. What I was met with, was a country of hustle and bustle, busy roads, traffic, ungodly heat and an even more ungodly amount of sweating. Amidst this beehive of sweat and rush (it was just after Christmas and just before New Years) I found something that will now forever onward put long buffet tables of franchised hotels to shame. To shame I say!
Let’s talk street food.
Mauritius holds strong to a culture of street food. Where in South Africa or many other ‘hipsterized’ countries you find your fill in cafes hidden in alleys, lit by consol bottle lamps playing sixties vinyls, serving craft cupcakes alongside coffee flavoured, gluten-free beer; Mauritius takes the more laid back approach of holes in the walls serving good old fashioned food on the run. ‘Holes in the wall’ is of course a figurative term I use for alleyway tables, shacks, trolleys beside highways and shelves merely stacked besides the road.
From what I always hear from those who travel to exotic locations such as India, I’ve heard not to eat anything that has been left in the sun, that you haven’t seen prepared yourself, and that is left standing outside in the heat. Now what utter bullshit is that? If I listened to my mother’s advice regarding the various digestive routes I would have missed out on the most colourful tasting experience of my life. Now I’m not saying my digestive system completely agrees with me in this regard, but I am saying that the only way to truly experience a country is to nibble local delicacies, not the delicacies the Hyatt Hotel is selling off to 30 million guests worldwide.
So, in short if you ever find yourself in giant tortoise country, be sure to try these delights instead of a cheese and ham sandwich on a beach:
Vona Corona ice-cream:
A legendary family franchise found on bicycles in busy stores. Vona Corona isn’t one to walk past, ever. Selling only one flavour, they definitely don’t only sell one taste sensation. In your bowl you get a scoop of homemade vanilla and pistachio flavoured ice cream. These creamy scoops of pure love are then drenched in a tart berry jam, and pink shaved coconut. This concoction tastes like something you’ve probably never tasted before with the marriage of sweet, tart, crispy and creamy. Think Pina Colada meets jam and scones meets absolute heaven.
Deep fried cassava root, ginger, sugar, spice rolled in a perfect dough ball. Sweet, gooey and crunchy. The way a doughnut always wanted to taste like, but never quite knew how.
Gateau Patat (Sweet potato cakes)
Deep fried sweet potato shell-cakes filled with fresh coconut and sugar mix. Yes. Sugar, sweet potato and crunch. We had it for tea. And lunch. And dinner. And some more. Recipe Here
Gateau Piment (chilli cake):
Chilli and onion deep-fried dough golfballs. You don’t order one at a time, you order at least 10. My favourite memory was 3 fresh gateau piment on a fresh baguette smothered in butter. Definitely not for any banters, however, you may banter about it to bread lovers for years to come.
Dhollpuri (filled lentil pancake):
As Mauritius has an incredibly strong Indian influence, you’ll find an incredible variation of beloved Indian variations here. Dholpuri is a pancake made with flaky naan dough and dahl (lentil) paste filled with a tomato bredie, bean curry and coconut chutney. There are three thousand different type of fillings in every town, the secret is to follow the queues and your nose.
Cari Ourite (octopus curry wrap):
This doesn’t even need an explanation. Ask any local and they’ll direct you to the closest stand. Warning though, octopus curry wraps sell out before 11AM in the morning, that’s how rare and delicious it is. Expect a dark, oil based curry filled with various juicy octopus cuts wrapped in a flaky roti. Don’t question it, but it’s a magical instant hangover cure. Recipe Here
Alouda (basil, tapioca flavoured milk):
This was initially described to me as the most refreshing thing on a hot day, even more so than a cold current from the South. Strange, as it is essentially a milkshake, but if there is anything learnt, it is life is stranger than fiction. To make it you soak basil seeds in tapioca and milk and serve it ice-cold with a dash of ice cream. Let me stop here before I drool. Recipe Here
In case you’re still hungry try Kucha (curried green mago), Tamarind Juice (alternative to lemonade), salted pineapple sticks (skinned pineapple eaten on their stems dipped in seawater).