Mauritius – a delicious & rich history of Food
Mauritius is an Indian Ocean Island that is a feast that feeds all your senses and makes one long for her people and drool over the food memories.As a traveller some of my fondest memories when I travel are related to the food I eat and once home I crave these dishes and sometimes even try to recreate these dishes.The food in Mauritius is very reflective of her people whose roots are from all over the world but have made Mauritius their home.
Mauritian food has influences of India,China,Malaysia,Africa ,Europe and Caribbean flavours.Like most immigrants who found themselves setting up home around the globe food choices were limited and hence adaptations of favourite dishes were created using local ingredients.There are traces of the same yet different dishes dotted around the globe and one tends to find a piece of home in the most unexpected places.The Indian Indentured labourers came to Mauritius after slavery was abolished and this was known as The Great Migration which is curated beautifully at the Aapravasi Ghat.Part of the history included is very much the same as my ancestors and their journey to South Africa.Many onboard the ships when they stopped in Mauritius on route to Durban ,they got off and stayed.It is no surprise that many South Africans of Indian heritage feel so at home when visiting the island.Deep down I have a feeling that some of my relatives live in Mauritius.
The food in general in Mauritius has reminders of South African food yes the spices and methods differ slightly as they do around the world but there is something comforting about eat the food of the island prepared by some of the friendliest people I have ever met and with each trip to the island I have more friends to see and catch up with.
My family have their own sentimental link to the island which started more 45 years ago when my parents went for their honeymoon and by chance got talking to the immigration officer who was rather intrigued by this young Indian couple from South Africa who where Telegu like her own family.She noted where they would be staying at The Merville Hotel in Grand Baie.At this point my Mum always reminds us that the Airport was the size of a house and it was just sugarcane fields everywhere.Since then so much has changed and believe me every trip of mine there is something new.Back to the story so a few days later and the Immigration officer arrived at the hotel with her father to invite my parents to a meal in their family home.A tad bit wary but they went with the family in a very typical car of the times a Moris Minor.An evening of good food including an Octupus Curry ,Dhall Puri and ofcourse local Rum.This was the start of a lifetime of memories shared between two families between two countries.
My Mauritius Impressions :
My first trip to Mauritius was in 2015 for my Brother’s Wedding and then my interest in the culture and food of the island first started.Besides the wedding festivities we got to Tour part of the island and I was blown away but the rich cultural heritage of the people.The islanders are fiercely proud of their island and food and are ever ready to share their paradise with you.That first trip was more of a typical island holiday but every trip since then has had a different experience and shown me parts of the island culture and food which I never knew about.I have stayed in various parts of the island that included hotels ,a guesthouse and even business hotels,each of these provided their unique experience.
Each trip I learn more and fall in love deeper with #MyMauritius.I have visited Hindu Temples ,Churches and Chinese Pagodas during my visits and each place is so beautifully crafted and welcoming.Mauritius is truly a country of amazing people.On my last trip very rushed trip to Mauritius ,but then again all my trips are as I never have enough time was for the Hindu Festival of Maha Shivarathri,having experienced this amazing spiritual pilgrimage last year I felt truly humbled to be able to go again as a guest of Mauritius Tourism.On every trip to the island I try and experience something new and different and and boy did my island deliver.
Eating and Exploring the streets of Port Louis :
Port Louis the capital city of Mauritius and is a bustling hub of activity.It is home to the beautiful Waterfront,China Town,Goverment Buildings ,Indian Quarter and many businesses.It is busy all the time and Colourful Umbrella Walk is a popular spot and changes from time to time.On our schedule for half the day was a Food and Cultural Walking Tour by My Moris.
My Moris is tour company with a difference using locals who live on the island to show the island to guests.Their cultural experiences take you to the heart of the history, religions, languages, crafts, and cuisines of the island.The company started when the owners wanted to positively contribute to an innovative form of tourism, one that is mindful and respectful of the local culture and environment.Like every place we travel to it is important to be mindful of the place,her people and the environment.
Meeting people from all walks of life, directly buying from local producers, supporting local cultural endeavours… These are some of the ways My Moris actively contribute to the local economy and help sustain trades that could disappear within a generation.
We met our two lovely guides Jaya and Adrienne who would wander with us through Port Louis sharing their city and sampling Mauritian Street Food with us at a Waterfront cafe.Quick introductions and we settled down to start with the history of the area ,what had changed and what has remained.Before we headed off we were given cloth bags and a bottle of water.
Tips for a walking Tour of Port Louis :
1.Wear flat comfortable shoes.
2.Sunglasses are a must I never travel without my sunglasses.
3.Carry a small lightweight backpack so your hands are free to take photos and eat.I love my KaryKase backpack.
4.Wear a hat as it gets rather hot out their.
5.Carry local cash currency so you can buy from local traders.
6.Use sunblock !
8.Carry a bottle of water.
From the Waterfront we walked to the Apravasi Ghat and believe me even though this was my 3rd visit it still stirred some emotions within me thinking about my roots and my Ancestors.Then it was time to go to the Indian Quarter of Port Louis,the entire area reminded me of streets and alleyways of Durban once again making me feel right at home.Traders selling Indian groceries from sacks like days gone by with the addition of a CD to keep away the birds I am told,fresh fruit and vegetables but trust me to find a beautiful shop selling traditional Indian costume jewels.Many of the traders have worked here for years as these are family businesses.Dotted between the oldness one can find hipster coffee shops and bakeries popping up.
Our first stop was a typical breakfast on the go spot next to a beautiful crafted Mosque that actually looked like a temple.The lil corner shop outside the mosque is said to be a popular spot for locals.There are no tables just a few stools ,as people buy and eat on the way to work.The smell of oil frying ,locals chattering and tea glasses clanking took me back in time especially as our snacks were in brown paper bags with the sauce on the snacks and tea served in see through glass “mugs”.Milky ,sweeted vanilla tea just like the Tea you get in Indian homes when there is a function.Our snack bags included ting samosas,bread bhajias and fritters all served pipping hot and with that delish sauce.
- Samosas here ar really tiny more like cocktail size and are filled with potato,fish,chicken or beef.
- Gateaux Piment – made from lentils very much like Falafel but tastes like the So
- Mazavaroo Paste which is the local version of a homemade of a chili sauce not too spicy but with the right flavours.
After munching on the freshly made snacks we got to walk through the beautiful Jumma Mosque.It was such a blistering hot day and yet it so cool and peaceful as we walked through the beautiful mosque.It felt comforting.
From here our journey took us to the bustling streets of China Town.I simply love how the Chinese have set up these places that look so authentic to home for their people.China Town’s around the world are a hive of activity and home to grocers,seamstress foodstalls and trinket shops.Each selling authenic products like one would find at home.It makes me wonder but how these families arrived there,their struggles and their victories.Most of the shops have been owned by the family for several generations and have trinkets from the past all over including the cat with the waving hand.
Old buildings given a new lease of life by murals as well as a huge recycling installation.The island is big on sustainability and being more eco-friendly :
1.There are several Hybrid cars on the road from every motor brand unlike here in SA where we have a handful only.
2.Most people use public transport including buses,company mini buses and a new train line which will run through the entire island.
3.Locals all carry shopper bags with them and that limits and reduces plastic usage.
4.Most locals buy their food from the local markets cutting down on the carbon footprint.
5.Supporting local products and business by locals is very important.
All these are part of the Mauritian way of life without impacting the culture of her people and the environment.At this point I must mention not once did I feel unsafe walking the streets of Port Louis with my mobile phone in my hand.Crossing roads was not a mission as drivers actually stopped for you.
Now back to China Town, we were taken to what looked like a narrow passage between two buildings.But infact it housed a takeaway with three small tables each sitting two people only with plastic tablecloths.We were here to eat the famous Boulet which can best be described as a Chinese Mauritian dumpling served with a broth and a Siracha type chilli sauce garnished with spring onions.The dumplings come in a variety of filling options including chicken ,fish,vegetable and pork.After my first bite I was hooked and every chance I got on that trip I ate boulets.
Senses heightened ,tummies full we made our way to our last stop for the most famous of all Dholl puri.This one is not like the South African or Carribean versions as it is much more softer and lighter.As we approached all I could see was a long time of people patiently to get their lunch.These are sold with a filling of veg curries and a hot chilli chutney,relatively cheap for under R50 for wait for it two Dholl puris.We managed to get a table inside and got our taste of Mauritius,it may not look pretty but it packed a flavour sensation like no other.And with those delicious flavours of the food of Mauritius still lingering we made our way back to get a taxi.
I would really recommend you go and try the street food of Mauritius because it is utterly delish.Just writing this post made me hungry and long for a taste of the island so I whipped up my version of the Bread Bhaijia. Here is the recipe very delicious and easy to make :
I used bread from the freezer
1 cup of gram flour/chilli bite mix if you have
1/2 onion chopped
1 chilli chopped
a handful of dhania chopped
1/2 a pepper chopped
1/2 teaspoon Tumeric
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp jeera
1 teaspoon masala
add water slowly to make a batter.
dipped in bread and fry for a few minutes each side.drain on paper before serving.Serve with a chilli sauce 🙂
So from my Food Adventures in Mauritius what are you keen to try ?
Would you make my recipe ?
Be Inspired !