Some uniquely Mauritian dishes are often referred to as ‘Creole’ in style (Creole is the French based language widely spoken on the island) - The classic example is Rougaille, a sort of tomato, garlic, ginger and chilli sauce often served with prawns – but most dishes have their distant origins off the island.
You could argue that Vindaye Poisson – a deliciously mustardy, vinegary dish of pickled, curried fish and onions that can be served warm or cold – has its roots in Indian Vindaloo, but in terms of the way it tastes, it is a dish unique to Mauritius which doesn’t compare at all.
A Chinese influenced example is Mine Frit, a noodle dish which obviously has origins in China but which features the very Mauritian flavours of garlic water, spring onion greens, chicken or prawn and a thick and fiery green chilli sauce. Another is Boulette, a sort of Mauritian Dim Sum of steamed meat, fish, veg and tofu parcels or patties served in a clear but flavoursome broth and garnished with chilli, spring onion and a little dark salty sauce (often oyster sauce).
French influences can clearly be seen in the fact baguettes are a daily staple, ‘Gateau’ and small sweet cakes being a part of every market and in classic French dishes with a Mauritian twist such as Daube – a slow cooked, very lightly spiced beef dish.
Other dishes, such as Gateuax Piment, sound on the face of them very French thanks to the native language. But it’s not that simple, as despite the name, what we’re talking about here are small, deepfried lentil and chilli balls. So Indian in origin maybe? Well perhaps, but consider that they’re often served in a baguette as breakfast, lunch, or even a late night snack, and it’s easy to see why Mauritian cuisine is difficult to pigeon hole.
Food is a forever changing and evolving scrapbook, with dishes moving across continents and becoming part of the local cuisine with their own specific twist. To focus on the origins is to miss the point a little. Let’s just be happy that the little microcosm that is Mauritius has taken these influences and let them develop their own character over time.
That’s what’s so exciting, that’s why it’s worth trying, and that’s why if you visit Mauritius and stay in your hotel then you’re a bloody idiot.
Expect more Mauritian posts to come. Next time, Mauritian tapas, aka 'Gajack' or maybe some Rum. I haven't quite decided yet.
For new readers to this thing I used to call a blog, you might want to have a read of the stuff I’ve written on Mauritius in previous years - it’s a little island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, near Madagascar and the Maldives, which, thanks to having family over there, we try to visit most years.