The East African island country of Mauritius (pronounced mawr-RIH-shuhs) offers exquisite surroundings set amidst a turquoise ocean at an affordable price. A plane ticket from Europe to the island costs less than $1,500 and accommodations cost little, as well. Even luxury hotels in Mauritius cost little. You can expect to pay about $85 per night for a three-star hotel and about $240 for a five-star hotel. Between the beaches, waterfalls, and hiking in lush forests, make time for the diverse local foods. The spicy local cuisine shows influences from many cultures: African, Chinese, Creole, French and Indian. The Mauritian diet draws largely from locally grown fruits and vegetables, and locally caught fish, seafood and game meat. Here let’s peep into the local food.
An influx of Indian laborers in the 1830s brought curry to the island. Like most of its local foods, cari comes in both vegan and carnivore varieties. You’ll find both lentil and bean curries in most restaurants. Chicken, fish and meat curries are common, too. If you really want to go native though, try the Carri Sauve Souris. That’s bat curry, a local delicacy. Other popular local specialities include cari with octopus or wild boar meat. Taste it before you add chilies because most cari is hot and spicy. Traditional cari uses curry leaves, garlic, ginger, tomatoes and turmeric as its base. Side dishes served with cari draw from Chinese culture and include mine-frit (fried noodles), niouk nien (dumplings), rice, or roti.
This island paradise loves its exotic fruits. Well, they’re unique to those of us on other continents, but as ubiquitous as a banana or apple to Mauritians. The key ingredients of the island’s fruit salad include the familiar apples, mangoes, oranges, and pineapples with the more unusual guava, lychees, and pawpaw, rounded out by unique local fruits. It’s usually served with a side of unripened pickled fruits.
Of course, seafood comprises of a staple category of food on the island. Try Millionaire’s Salad. It combines local salad leaves with a palm tree heart and a plethora of seafood treats: crab, crayfish, oysters, prawns, shrimp and smoked marlin. It’s topped with a dressing of sauce rouge. Try vindaye, deep-fried fish in a spicy coating of chilies, ginger, mustard seed and turmeric. Stop for lunch at Le Case du Pecheur. It specializes in locally farmed crab, giant shrimps, and lobster.
A traditional staple dish, rougaille, draws on Creole culture. It’s a quickly prepared dish served in most homes and at weddings. Its popularity means most restaurants serve it, too. Commonly a side dish for cari, it consists of chilies, garlic, onion, spices and tomatoes. When served, one may add fish, gateau piment, meat, peas or soya.
Miscellaneous Must Trys
Stop at a street cart (think island food truck) for gateau piment, a deep fried chili cake made from dhal (split peas) and red or green chilis, then spiced with coriander, cumin and onions. They’re serving piping hot on bread, but cold leftovers taste great, too. Catch a bite at Le Château de Bel Ombre for dinner. It creates a fusion of the cuisines comprising the island’s diverse food culture. Don’t miss the wild boar braised in a red wine sauce.
Mauritius boasts such an unique food culture that its gastronomic delights themselves provide an ideal reason for visiting the island. The beach, nature hikes and luxury hotels in Mauritius just become the icing on the chili cake.