A Culinary Journey to Mauritius
The culinary traditions of Mauritius reflect the ethnic diversity of its inhabitants: Creole rougailles, Indian curries, Muslim biryanis, Chinese sweet and sour pork, French dishes, English bacon and eggs… The basic ingredients of Creole cooking are tomatoes, onions, ginger, garlic and chilies. Hearts of palms, giant pink prawns and venison are included in recipes of French origin. Fresh fish and seafood are essential elements of Chinese cuisine.
The vast Port-Louis Market, known as the "Bazaar," was constructed in 1828 and is located between Farquar and Queen Streets. This is where you truly hear the island's heartbeat. Beginning at 5:30 a.m., a true culinary voyage of discovery begins amidst a swarm of tanned faces leaning over the stalls. Voices call out, vaunting the freshness of the meat or fish that is sometimes laid right on the stones, or praising the virtues of a medicinal plant or tea. The market continues behind Farquar Street, where there are mountains of pumpkins, chayotes, lemons, little tomatoes, squash, eggplant, breadfruit, spinach, sorrel, cress, chard and other greens, bananas, coconuts, mangos, papayas and lychees. Flavorful and sun-filled, they call for a furtive caress and a discreet sniff to appreciate their sweet flavors. In one stall, the citrusy scent of lemongrass blends with the spicy aroma of cilantro, local bay leaves and ginger. The spice sacks are opened up to reveal their fragrant and shining stores: chilies, curry, cumin, cardamom, turmeric... Bags of grain and salt fish overflow the stalls onto the sidewalk.
Then you exit the bazaar and gulp in some fresh air. Our senses haven't had time to adapt to the smells tempting our nostrils from the street vendors: samosas (fried turnovers), chili cakes, dholl-puris (flat cakes served with curry sauce), chow mein (Chinese fried noodles with vegetables, chicken, shrimp, eggs and spices), biryani (rice, spices, vegetables and meat or fish).
In the restaurants of Mahebourg, fried lobster is offered alongside fish freshly caught in the lagoons and spiced with curry or pan-fried, served with rice and palm salad. There is also a variety of large prawn, called Camaron here.
When it comes to desserts, the French presence is obvious: crème caramel, vacherin, crêpes, flans, tarts, creams and mousses made with a local touch - cane sugar, vanilla, rum and cinnamon.
Hop over to Rodriguez island, considered to be the large island's "granary." Crops such as corn, sweet potatoes, cassava and beans are produced for local consumption. Onions, garlic, lemons and chilies are grown in substantial amounts and are sent by boat to Port-Louis to be sold in the bazaar. At Port Mathurin's picturesque Saturday market, you can choose between straw hats and wicker objects, spicy lime pickles and pots of honey - the honey from Rodriguez is known internationally. It's time to sit down to eat: seafood, beef "rougaille," octopus curry, glazed pork and corn pudding.
Discover Mauritius Island on our Travel Sister website.
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