International Cooking: Food from Mauritius

Mauritius is another country I hadn’t heard of before this challenge, but a quick glance at food from Mauritius told me I would enjoy this week! I saw Indian and Chinese influences and I love food from those countries.

Mauritius is an island country in the Indian Ocean. It’s technically part of East Africa, but it feels quite different from other African countries I’ve ‘visited’ on this challenge. It consists of the main island, Mauritius, and a few smaller islands.

The uninhabited main island is thought to have been discovered by Arab sailors around 975, but they did not stick around. Portuguese sailors visited in 1507, but it was the Dutch who claimed the island and named it after Maurice, the Prince of Orange. The Dutch made a few attempts at settling the region permanently, with the aim of using slaves from Madagascar to establish sugar and arrack production. (Arrack is a distilled alcoholic drink made from the fermented sap of coconut flowers or sugarcane.) However, these efforts were eventually abandoned, and the islands were uninhabited once more.

France took the islands in 1715, but they were seized by the United Kingdom a century later. Ultimately, France ceded Mauritius to the United Kingdom, which used it as its main sugar-producing colony until 1968, when the island gained independence.

Mauritius has a high Human Development Index and a high-income economy, and consistently ranks as the most peaceful country in Africa. It also has many unique species of flora and fauna. It was the only known home of the dodo, which became extinct soon after human settlement.

What Do People Eat in Mauritius?

Mauritian cuisine is influenced by the tropical location and the cuisine of the various cultures that have passed through and inhabited the islands over the centuries. Common African ingredients are often used, but there are also strong influences from India, China, and France.

Rice is one of the most common staple ingredients; it can be boiled plain as a side dish or used to make fried rice or biryani. Noodles are also popular, as are French baguettes and flatbreads such as Indian roti.

Curries are widely consumed and can be made with meat, seafood, and/or vegetables. These curries are unique in that they rarely contain coconut milk and often use European herbs such as thyme. Mauritian curries also use a wider range of proteins than you would see in most places, including duck and octopus.

All kinds of desserts and pastries can be found in Mauritius, such as French tarts, croissants, shaved ice, and corn pudding.

What I Made

Scroll down to read about other popular Mauritian dishes I didn’t make!

Bol Renversé (Chicken Stir-Fry Bowl with Egg)

Bol Renversé (Chicken Stir-Fry Bowl with Egg)

Also known as ‘magic bowl’, this dish is made by placing a fried egg in a bowl, topping it with stir-fry and rice, and turning it out onto a plate. I wanted to try it because it looks cool and I love anything with an egg on top!

To make the stir-fry, I cooked chopped chicken thighs with dark soy sauce, garlic, salt, and pepper. I added shiitake mushrooms, Chinese sausage, and carrot, and a few minutes later I added bok choy. Then I poured in the sauce, made from cornstarch, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, and a little red wine. I thought the red wine was an odd addition but I figured it at least wouldn’t be bad.

This was quick and easy, especially since I used my rice cooker to make the rice. Once the stir-fry was ready, all I had to do was fry an egg and assemble.

I sprinkled some cilantro in a bowl, then added the egg, followed by the stir-fry and then the rice. I put a plate over the bowl, then tipped it upside down. Mine didn’t look quite as nice as some of the photos I saw online but I think it still came out pretty well.

Most importantly, this tasted good. I think the sauce could have used something extra, maybe even just more soy sauce. But overall, I enjoyed this dish.

The recipe I used is from Mauritian Food Recipes.

Gateaux Piments (Fried Split Pea Fritters)

Gateaux Piments (Fried Split Pea Fritters)

Also known as ‘gato pima’, these split pea fritters remind me of falafel. The premise is similar—you blend soaked legumes with other ingredients and then form the mixture into fritters and fry. They are a popular street food in Mauritius, often served on a buttered baguette.

I soaked split chickpeas (also known as chana dal) overnight, then added them to a food processor with green onion, onion, cilantro, chili, fennel seeds, cumin, turmeric, and some salt. I processed until I had a paste that was still a little chunky, then formed it into fritters and deep-fried them.

I found that the mixture didn’t hold together very well, so I added an egg. I’m not sure how authentic that is but it did help a lot and I was able to fry the rest of my fritters pretty easily.

These tasted good but were a little dry, though maybe that’s how they’re meant to be.

The recipe I followed is from ZestyMu on YouTube.

Rougaille (Spicy Tomato Sauce)

Rougaille (Spicy Tomato Sauce)

Rougaille is a spicy tomato sauce that is often served with other dishes in Mauritius, made primarily from tomato, onion, and chili.

First I cooked some onion, thyme, and a whole serrano chili in oil for a few minutes. Then I added canned tomatoes, ginger, garlic, and salt. After simmering for a bit, I stirred in some fresh cilantro and the sauce was ready.

I think my rougaille was drier than it was meant to be, but the flavor was good and it served as a great side dish with my dhal puri (next dish).

The recipe I used is from Rostone on YouTube.

Dhal Puri (Dhal-Stuffed Flatbreads)

Dhal Puri (Dhal-Stuffed Flatbreads)

In Mauritius, these flatbreads stuffed with dhal are so popular that they are considered the country’s national dish. Similar flatbreads can also be found in India and probably many other countries with Indian influences.

I cooked my split chickpeas in water with salt and turmeric until soft. Then I drained them and let them cool, before pulsing them in a food processor with some toasted fennel seeds until smooth.

While I waited for the split peas to cool, I combined some of the warm water they had cooked in with plain flour to form a soft dough, which I formed into small dough balls—one for each flatbread.

I made a hollow in each ball and added some of the smooth split pea mixture. It was really more like a powder than a paste, which is how I had imagined it would be when reading the recipe. This made it a bit difficult for me to fill the dough balls. Then, I needed to roll out the dough until flat, but my filling was unevenly placed and kept trying to escape. This meant I ended up not rolling the flatbreads as thinly as I should have since I was trying to keep the filling inside.

I brushed the flatbreads on both sides with oil and cooked quickly over medium heat, turning a few times. The recipe said not to let the dhal puri turn brown, but that there should be bubbles, and I think I at least achieved this!

My dhal puri didn’t turn out perfectly but they did taste really good! Good enough that I may try making them again one day.

The recipe I used is from Cook with Shelina on YouTube.

Cari Poule (Chicken Curry)

Cari Poule (Chicken Curry)

Curry is popular in Mauritius, and this chicken curry is one of the most common.

I started by gently cooking onion, thyme, curry leaves, garlic, ginger, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, cardamom pods, cloves, and dried chilies in some oil. I added chopped tomatoes and water, and simmered for a few minutes. Then I stirred in some garam masala and salt. This was the spice paste that formed the base of the dish.

I added chopped chicken thighs and potatoes with some water and simmered until everything was cooked through. I was meant to add some peas too but I completely forgot!

Just before serving, I added some lemon juice and chopped cilantro. This can be served with plain white rice, but dhal puri is a common side dish here so that’s what I added. I also had some of my rougaille on the side.

This was a very flavorful curry which I really enjoyed!

This recipe is from Peachy Tales.

Fish Vindaye (Spicy Fish)

Fish Vindaye (Spicy Fish)

Fish vindaye is a kind of spicy fish curry flavored with mustard seeds, turmeric, shallots, garlic, ginger, and chilies. It can be made with various types of fish, including swordfish and tuna. I used mahi mahi because it’s what I had in my freezer.

I sprinkled my fish fillets with salt and pepper, then added a light dusting of cornstarch before pan-frying in some oil. Then I set the fish aside.

I added shallots, garlic, and ginger to the pan with some mustard oil. Then I added brown mustard seeds and achard masala. I made the achard masala from turmeric, brown mustard seeds, dried chilies, fenugreek leaves, fenugreek seeds, and curry leaves, which I ground together before blending with water to make a paste.

I added white vinegar and salt, then the fish and some Thai chilies.

In Mauritius, this would commonly be served with a fresh baguette or with rice. I had some leftover bread that I made for Malta so I ate my fish vindaye with that and some broccoli. I thought this was pretty good but I would like to try it next time on a buttered baguette since I think it would make for an interesting and delicious sandwich.

The recipe I used here is from Mauritian Street Food; this is also where I got the recipe for the achard masala.

Dhal Pitta (Lentils and Handmade Pasta)

Dhal Pitta (Lentils and Handmade Pasta)

This is a dish that didn’t really come up when I was doing my own research into Mauritian food, but it seemed popular among the people in the Mauritian subreddit and looked delicious so I decided to add it to my list. It’s a fairly simple dish consisting mostly of lentils and hand-made pasta flavored with turmeric.

I started by combining flour, salt, and warm water to make the pasta dough. Then I set it aside to rest while I started on the lentils.

I sautéed onion, garlic, thyme, and curry leaves in oil, then added some ginger and tomato paste. I added ground cumin and turmeric and cooked for a minute, before adding tomato and salt.

After cooking for a few more minutes, I added a combination of brown lentils and split chickpeas, along with some chicken stock (the recipe called for water here but I usually prefer stock for extra flavor).

While the lentils cooked, I rolled out my pasta dough until it was thin and cut it into squares. I added it to the lentils once they were nearly done, and after a few minutes more the dish was ready.

Now, this is definitely not going to win any awards for presentation—it’s not a pretty dish, even after garnishing with some cilantro. But I have to say, this was amazingly flavorful. I was kind of surprised because there weren’t that many spices in it. But it just worked really well.

To make this, I used a recipe from ZestyMu on YouTube.

  • Mine frire – a street food dish consisting of fried noodles that can come with a variety of protein and vegetables.
  • Napolitaine – a pastry made from two sablé biscuits filled with jam and coated in sugar.
  • Sept cari – this really describes multiple dishes, specifically seven vegetable curries, often served with rice and roti on banana leaves.
  • Gateau patates – sweet potato cakes filled with grated coconut and sugar.
  • Boulettes – various Chinese-style dumplings served in broth.

Final Thoughts

This was a great week! Everything was delicious, but my favorite dish was the dhal pitta, followed by the bol renversé.

Next week, I will be cooking food from Mexico.

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