CHEMIN GRENIER, MAURITIUS – I have never had much experience with eating foods with curry spices, so Mauritius provided me an opportunity to try a lot of different things to eat that were unique to my palate.
Indian spices are prominent in a lot of the food; however, the fare has evolved through time. Europeans, Indians, Muslims, Chinese and Creoles have all shared and mixed ingredients to create a Mauritian cuisine.
We were very fortunate to be staying at a B&B where the owner’s mother lived across the courtyard. She was always bringing over something for us to try. This gave us an opportunity to try many things that likely we wouldn’t have ordered at a restaurant simply because we didn’t know what it was.
We were intrigued by the homemade pickle/chutneys she brought, which we learned was to mix with the rice. Dried and shredded green mango with mustard seed, chili and other spices was a favourite. Samosas, lentils, roti, and curries were outstanding.
We were invited to a New Year’s Eve celebration with the family and along with samples of the different foods we also had a barbeque with sausages, chicken and lamb. Different homemade sauces accompanied the meats and I must admit, some were very spicy although not too piquant as to burn the palate.
Our neighbour brought over boiled breadfruit one day, something that I was curious to try because I had only heard of breadfruit as the cargo of the Bounty in “Mutiny on the Bounty.”
Breadfruit is huge, the size of a basketball. What she brought looked and tasted very much like mashed potato, except very starchy. She told us to just add butter and a bit of salt and pepper. It certainly was tasty, and I used the leftovers the next day fried in a bit of oil to make something like chips.
We also really liked a Cajun smoked sausage, with creole rougailles – mildly spiced tomato sauce – over rice.
Briani is also a popular and tasty rice dish. This is made in huge pots, and the rice is chock full of pieces of chicken or lamb, vegetables and potatoes and spiced with saffron and other Indian flavours. It’s a meal in itself.
Each town seems to have its own renowned briani vendor. There is a lineup when he is ready to serve, and you had best not wait too long because when the pot is empty he is done for the day. The vendor will dig through the rice to make sure everyone gets big chunks of meat and veggies.
A large Styrofoam clam shell, filled until it can hardly close with enough rice for two people, only costs about $4 CAD.
We tried many new things and it helped expand our palates. We look forward to experiment with these new tastes when we get home.
Jim and Jane Hildebrand are on a four-month vacation to Mauritius and South Africa. Students from the Grade 9 English class at J.M. Olds Collegiate in Twillingate pose questions to them about their experiences and the locale. Keep looking to the Pilot for future questions from students and travel highlights.