Mauritius is a paradise for the senses, not only for the eyes with its beautiful landscape, but also for the palate. Gastronomes will find a variety of flavours and aromas inherited from the different migrations through its history. Culinary traditions from France, India, China and Africa, the best-known and appreciated cuisines in the world, have been passed on through generations. The story of a Mauritian starting the day with a continental breakfast, followed by an Indian Lunch and finishing off with a Chinese dinner is a common cliché.
Mauritian strong ties to the French culture through its history have left a very French style of “savoir vivre” until now. French dishes like the daube, civet de lièvre or coq au vin served with some good wine bear testimony of these traditions. As years passed by, some have been adapted to the more exotic ingredients of the island to confer some unique savour.
During the nineteenth century, after the abolition of slavery, Indian workers who migrated to Mauritius, brought with them their exquisite cuisine. Those indentured labourers came from different parts of India, and each with its own culinary tradition: depending on the region, rice or a variety of flat bread called chapattis or roti will be preferred. The extensive use of spices like saffron, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves are the common ingredients that provide some powerful, yet subtle, savour. There is also extensive use of dals, vegetables and beans, and pickles, achards, to accompany the dishes. Dholl puri and roti, originally an Indian delicacy have become the fish and chips of the Mauritians. Biryani from Mughal origins is a dish prepared by the muslim community, with meat mixed with spiced rice and potato.
The end of the 19th century saw the arrival of Chinese migrants, who came mostly from the south-eastern part of China. They originated mostly from the Cantonese region bearing the best reputation in Chinese cuisine for its variety and sophistication. Chinese dishes appeal to the senses through colour, shape, aroma and taste. This tradition of excellence has been preserved and, as such, has conquered the tables of all the other communities. Even if the Chinese community is one of the smallest, its cuisine is the most present in the restaurants around the island. Fried noodles or rice, chopsuey, spring rolls are eaten by everyone. Other such delicacies as the shark fin or abalone soup can only be found in specialised Chinese restaurants.
Along the years each community has adapted and mixed each other’s cuisine to their liking, which resulted in a Mauritian cuisine. This can be seen in the Creole cuisine, which is a blend of different ingredients and savours. The ever-present Creole rougaille is served with a number of “achards” (pickles) or dals and rice from Indian origin. There has also been some changes during the last twenty years with the arrival of some fast foods where one can find burgers, pizza and chips.
Somehow anyone visiting the island should try a pair of dholl puri with a large glass of Alouda or tamarind juice to have a genuine taste of Mauritius. It is recommended to try those local delicacies in restaurants known for their standard of hygiene. You should be aware that the local chilli preparations might prove to be very hot.
Extract from voyaz.com