This unique history, enriched by a variety of cultures, created one of the best fusion cuisines in the world today.
Mauritius is a paradise for the palate and the senses, where the ethnic diversity of the local people is reflected in its cuisine. The cuisine of Mauritius, with its variety of flavours and aromas is indeed a gastronomic delight, making it a splendid place to experience real gourmet food.
Mauritian cuisine is a testament to the influences of the culinary traditions of France, Africa, Mughlai, India and China, which are the best-known and appreciated cuisines in the world. The people of Mauritius have incorporated these influences with their local fruits, vegetables, spices and other ingredients to create a fusion style of cooking.
It is said that a typical day in Mauritius starts with a Continental breakfast, continues with a Chinese lunch, and ends with an Indian dinner along with some French wine. It is clear that the Mauritian cuisine today, reflects the cultural richness of the Mauritian society.
History of Mauritius
Mauritius, an island of volcanic origin sheltered by barriers of coral reefs and crystal-clear lagoons, has long been a dream destination.
Discovered by the Arabs as early as the 10th century, Mauritius was officially explored by the Portuguese in the 16th century and subsequently settled by the Dutch in the 17th century. During this time, the Dutch introduced to Mauritius sugarcane, domestic animals and slavery. The French later occupied Mauritius (1715-1810) and in 1810, the British captured the island. In 1835, the British abolished slavery, which led to the importation of indentured workers from India to work on the sugarcane plantations. Chinese and African labourers also arrived on the island.
This unique history, enriched by a variety of cultures, created one of the best fusion cuisines in the world today. Mauritian cuisine is a unique mix of French, British, Indian, Chinese and Creole culinary and cooking traditions.
The Mauritian dishes are usually served with rice, lentils and vegetables, which are very popular and are included in the Mauritian everyday food. Curries and rougailles are also a popular dish at the dinner table, made from a blend of crushed spices and served with a number of "achards" - pickles.
Besides rice, many also opt for a Dholl Puri or Roti, which can be, found in city centres and offered by many street stalls. These descend from Indian cuisine and consist mainly of a flatbread, like a salted crêpe, filled with curries and chili.
The unique mix of spices with vegetables, meat, poultry, fish and seafood gives a unique flavour to the food of Mauritius.
Spices in Mauritian Cuisine
The most basic and common ingredients used in Mauritian recipes are tomatoes, onions, ginger, garlic and chilies. Local spices constitute a major part of Mauritian cuisine. Spices such as saffron, garam masala, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves are extensively used.
Some local dishes are hot and spicy, heavily influenced by Indian cuisine, so be cautious when sampling local foods. The Mauritians are known for spicing up their food with lots of chili and the local chili is very hot – so one should first try a dish without chili first before adding any in!
Seafood in Mauritius
As Mauritius is surrounded by the ocean, seafood lovers can celebrate and savour on many different fish and seafood dishes, typical to Mauritius.
Fish and seafood are usually caught locally, but may also come from the surrounding islands (such as Seychelles). From a variety of snapper fish, sea bream and tuna, you can have seafood any way you want; baked, grilled, fried, sautéed or à la Mauricienne (the typical Mauritian way), rougaille-style. Salted fish (poisson salé), is also a popular favorite in Mauritian cuisine.
Other seafood island delicacies, include the famous "Millionaires salad" is made with oysters, shrimps, crayfish, crabs and prawns and is served with the heart of a palm tree.
Meat and Poultry in Mauritius
Aside from seafood, meat and poultry are also incorporated in Mauritian cuisines and households.
Products are usually both local and imported; meat is usually imported from Australia though the venison and poultry is local. Meat and poultry is used in many variations in all ethnic cuisines, including Creole stews, Indo-Mauritian curries and Chinese stir fries.
The unique mix of spices with vegetables, meat, poultry, fish and seafood gives a unique flavour to the food of Mauritius. It is worth mentioning that the local fruits such as papaya, passion fruit, guava, mango, lychee, banana, pineapple and coconut provide refreshing cocktails and wonderful desserts.
Eating out in Mauritius
Mauritian food is found everywhere in Mauritius - in the streets, in the shopping areas, in the markets and next to the beaches.
The selection is vast, from very inexpensive street stands and cafes to some very up-market restaurants. You can pay as little as 0.50 Euro for a Roti or a lot more for fresh seafood in a top class tourist restaurant. Most of the small, local places are quite good and their prices are very reasonable compared to eating out in Europe or the USA.
Like almost everywhere else in the world today, there are several worldwide fast food chains (KFC, McDonalds, Nandos, Pizza Hut) where one can find burgers, pizzas and much more.
Things to know about dining in Mauritius
Tipping in Mauritius: 10% tipping is common in most hotels and high-end restaurants, however it is not compulsory.
VAT (Value Added Tax) in Mauritius: A value added tax of 15% is usually added to the prices on the menus of restaurants - be sure to check if the prices on the menu already include VAT.
Legal drinking age in Mauritius: 18
Whether you are traveling on a holiday trip to Mauritius or recently moved to Mauritius, you should definitely try Mauritian food. The variety of cuisines available in Mauritius caters to the taste buds of a wide spectrum of foodies.