You can’t visit Mauritius without tucking in to some of their amazing, authentic dishes. Where do you find authentic Mauritian food? Read on…
Food is at the heart of every culture. You can’t say you have truly experienced a culture until you have tasted it – and you have to look further than the restaurant at your hotel, or the familiar franchise you see on the corner for it.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to spoil yourself on holiday and eat at all the top restaurants (who doesn’t love a finessed meal?), but eating solely at restaurants of that calibre can hold you back from the true substance of your destination. To really feel the culture, you have to get gritty. All those hesitations about street food have to be dropped, because the carts and dingy looking eateries is where it is at.
Having family in Mauritius, our holidays there are always more family oriented. We don’t stay in resorts (my 2 nights at the end of this last trip are an exception), and we mostly eat at local eateries. Sure, we have had our fair share of refined meals there too, but some of the best snacks and meals we had cost us under $5.00 each, and came from the little guy slinging grub from his little street cart.
You owe it to yourself to try Mauritian food ‘family style’, before getting the refined take on it in a finer dining restaurant. Put on your big boy pants, and sink your teeth into some authentic Mauritian food at one of these stand out places.
When we first went to Mauritius back in 2007, we stayed in our family beach house in Trou Aux Biches. Every morning, we would run across the road to a tiny street cart, and return to sit on the beach with a bowl piled high with vegetable loaded noodles. The sun was warm, the food was deliciously satisfying, and the view – oh that view! Needless to say, our noodle breakfasts were one of our fondest memories of that trip.
In 2018, that street cart is still there (albeit much bigger and busier), serving up noodles, dumplings and all sorts of delicious asian-fusion fare. For the last 12 years (if not longer) Mueng has been manning his little spot there on the Trou Aux Biches waterfront.
The locals love Chez Mueng, with a line snaking around the corner come lunchtime every day. There is something so hearty and homely about the food Mueng serves up. It isn’t gourmet by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a prime example of the Chinese-Mauritian cuisine.
There isn’t really a set menu here, you just ask for a bowl and start adding components. My choice from Mueng was always boulettes (dumplings). Steaming away on his cart, there were poisson (fish), beef, chicken and vegetable dumplings to choose from. Sometimes I would pour a poisson boullion (fish broth) over top, sometimes I would leave the dumplings as is. You can add noodles, fresh herbs, chilli, octopus – whatever is there on the cart that day.
If, like me, you go for a bowl full of dumplings, lunch costs anywhere between $2.00 and $4.00. You can grab some $2.00 cans of beer from the poky general store next door, take your bowl and beers across the road and spend your lunch break looking out over Trou Aux Biches’ azure waters.
Chamarel village is nestled amongst the mountains in the south west corner of the island. Most famous for its rainbow coloured sand (which isn’t very rainbow), giant tortoises, gorgeous waterfall and rhumeries (rum distilleries) Chamarel is quite the tourist hot spot. Just like anywhere in the world, with the tourists comes the tourist pleasing restaurants. Just like anywhere I go, the throngs of tourists is what I try and avoid.
For lunch in Chamarel, we settled on a restaurant that our Mauritian relatives had recommended, Palais de Barbizon. It is a pretty unassuming place, tucked away from any of the main roads. Let’s just say that interior design isn’t their strong-suit. But, in a kitschy, mismatched and very tacky plastic way, it works.
That aside, you aren’t there for the interiors, you are there for the Creole experience. That experience starts with a very enthusiastic greeting from the family that run the place and a potent rum punch. Mauritian hospitality at its finest!
Like Chez Mueng, there isn’t really a menu to choose from at Palais de Barbizon. Instead, you eat whatever Creole wonders have been cooked that day.
Growing up on my Grandad’s Creole cooking, this style of eating was so familiar to me. The food comes out share style, and soon enough the entire table is covered with a variety of little dishes to be spooned over rice. Our lunch consisted of chicken drumsticks, salted fish, a stewed eggplant dish (not unlike baba ganoush), silverbeet, lentils and a spiced cauliflower dish. It doesn’t necessarily look super appetising all laid out on the table, but it looks exactly as I remember our big Mauritian family dinners (tacky plastic tablecloth included). It is truely authentic Mauritian food.
The Mauritian-Creole cuisine is super unique, so if you don’t have the chance to make it out to Palais de Barbizon, do yourself a favour and hunt it out somewhere else.
They’re big, they’re busy and they are awful if you are looking for something cute to take home as a souvenir of your trip. But don’t let that put you off the Port Louis markets.
The fresh produce and food section at the capital’s markets are amazing. It is well worth a wander through the produce section, but unless you are looking for some fresh fruit, or some vegetables to cook your fisherman’s catch of the day with, it probably isn’t going to do too much for you.
The place you want to be is in the food hall. There are a ton of different food options there, and it is a perfect visual of Mauritius’ melting pot cuisine. From Indian and Chinese, to Creole and slightly more western, there is something for every palate.
If you are going to pick up some Mauritian food from the markets, my suggestion is to first hunt down dholl puri. Like farata, dholl puri is a flat bread you fill with curry and achard (vegetable pickle), and eat rolled up like a crepe. Unlike farata, dholl puri is made from ground split peas so even the glutards can feast on them.
But don’t fill up on just dholl puri! You can find other distinctly Mauritian treats like gateaux piment (chilli cakes – similar to falafel), vegetable fritters, samosas, and sliced fruits (normally mango, apple or pineapple) with chilli and salt. If you can’t get enough of the fried noodles or boulettes, you can find them at the market too.