Mauritius Street Food
– Reminders of a Durban Childhood (this article appeared in the Sunday Times Extra 12 Jan 2014)
Ripe pineapples, dipped in chilli powder and salt, threaded on wooden skewers and sold along the Durban beachfront, remind me of my childhood and sticky summer days. The pickle vendors with spicy mango, vegetable and bor would tempt me too. It seems that visitors to Mauritius often come back with honeymoon tales, or stories about the pristine beaches, but few speak of the wonderful, cheap and tasty street food.
I was reminded of my Durban childhood after my first visit to Mauritius. The warm waters of the Indian Ocean, the climate with its high levels of humidity, the lush vegetation and fields of sugar cane and the down-to-earth nature of the people, are some of the similarities. With a population made up of 80 per cent Indian immigrants, many of whom are also descendants of indentured labourers, I found a strong semblance in the food, to Durban’s. The mix of Indian staples as well as Creole, French and Chinese, gives Mauritian food a unique profile. Interestingly, most Mauritians are vegetarian.
The best place to find the foods that embody Mauritius’ prevalent Indian and immigrant heritage is away from the plush luxury resorts and on the streets, or the beaches where locals hang out.
Street Food Culture
From motorbikes pulling glass cases laden with snacks, to food trucks, trailers, carts and market vendors, enjoying a wide variety of food on-the-go, has never been easier or more colourful in Africa, than it is in Mauritius.
I meet Poonam, who sells popular snacks, made from scratch in her food trailer in Gris Gris in the south, quite by accident. I’m there to eat a popular Chinese restaurant, but never make it after Poonam prepares me my first taste of di pan frire (spicy battered deep fried bread), followed by roti chaud (thin rotis with butter bean curry and pickles), potato samosas and the ‘fresh’ lightly brined pickles with chilli and salt that Mauritians are so fond of.
“You’re like my sister,” she says, fascinated by our shared features, and as frustrated as I am, by my lack of French. Locals speaks French, Creole and vernacular before they learn to speak English, but most know enough for you to get by on.\
Fabulous Street Food Picks
Follow general protocol regarding hygiene, choose vendors with long queues and a high turnover to avoid getting ill.
- Di pan frire
- Dholl Puri – crepe-like bread made from split peas, served with grois pois (bean curry) and chilli paste. The chilli paste is served with everything. Best at Dewa & Sons, Rose Hill and Chapeau la Paille, Port Louis Market
- Gateaux piment – split pea fritters with chilli, like vadda
- Farata – thin roti
- Gajacks – fried snacks like gateaux bringele (battered brinjals, also made with potato)
- Roti Chaud
- Archards – pickles, especially lightly brined pineapple and mango.
- Victoria pineapples – very sweet. Best with chilli.
- Boulettes – Chinese steamed dumplings. Best ones in China Town
- 10. Briani (breyani) Great versions in Rose Hill and Flacq market
- 11. Sugar cane juice
- 12. Alouda – milky drink similar to falooda. Try Alouda Pillay, Port Louis market.
by Selina Periampillai
Selina is a self-taught cook who hosts the popular ‘Yummy Choo’ supper club from her home in Croydon, specialising in Mauritian homecooked cuisine, her site here has become a ‘go to’ page for Mauritian inspired recipes and food reviews.
She has also been featured in The Guardian Cook Supplement, The London Epicurean Magazine, Croydon Advertiser, Good Food Guide, Delicious magazine, Your Source Today, Food Network, Good Things Magazine and Berkeley Magazine.
She was invited to host one of Oliver Peyton’s ‘Friday Night Socials’ at the National Cafe in The National Gallery and have done previous pop ups at Clifton Nurseries, Brixton, Balham and Clapham venues including successful Mauritian Rum Tasting & Food Experiences.
100 g yellow split peas, soaked overnight
250g plain flour
1 tsp turmeric
700 ml warm water
pinch of salt
You will need to begin this recipe 1 day ahead.
1. Drain and rinse the peas and boil in fresh water with turmeric until just tender (approx 25mins). Drain well, reserve cooking liquid and blend in a food processor (the mixture should be like afine paste). Add salt to taste.
2. Place the flour and 2 pinches of salt in a large bowl and mix well. Add the water, mix to a smooth dough and knead for about 5 minutes. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and leave for 20–30 minutes or even overnight.
3. Form the dough into balls the size of a satumas. Make an indent in the centre of each ball and stuff with the pea mixture. Seal the dough around the filling. Roll the balls out on a floured surface to thin rounds.
4. Brush a frying pan (tawa is ideal) with oil till hot and cook each dholl puri over high heat for 1 minute, before flipping brush with oil and flip over and do the other side.
5. Then fill with cari grois pois (butter bean curry), tomato satini, chillies,wrap and enjoy!
This post is affiliated to the #MyMauritius blog trip, created and managed by iambassador and AHRIM in association with the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority and Air Mauritius. Food and the Fabulous maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. For the first 5 days, I was privately chauffeured around Mauritius by ABC Car Rentals. (I know, can’t beat that!). The remainder of my stay was private. Read more on my Impressions of Mauritius here, and my story on the history of Sugar Cane here.