Discovering Mauritian Street Food

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The origins of Mauritian cuisine are as diversified as its population. For a small island far away from any continent, the local gastronomy is one of the most diversified that you could find anywhere during your holidays. And frankly, where else will you find Chinese people eating Indian food or people of Indian origin eating Creole cuisine or people of African origin eating Chinese food (and loving it) on a daily basis?

During your holidays in Mauritius, you will be able to discover a new aspect of Mauritian gastronomy at almost every street corner, not just at big and expensive restaurants. One of the most appreciated foods among the locals, regardless of race or income is the dholl puri. In fact, it’s not rare to find long queues of people forming next to a popular dholl puri seller in every town!

But what is so mesmerizing about the dholl puri? If you had to judge by the number of people patiently waiting for their turn to purchase this delicacy you might think that it could be a very elaborate meal. The reality is that dholl puris are just pancakes made from yellow split peas that are normally eaten with some lima bean curry, chutney and a little amount of pickled vegetables called “achard”. Although relatively simple in nature, the dholl puri is sure to unleash a flurry of ecstasy in your mouth, provided that the seller didn’t put too many peppers in it.

Dholl Puris from Mauritius. Photo by CC by 2.0
Dholl Puris from Mauritius. Photo by CC by 2.0

Often, the same street food vendor will sell dholl puri’s close cousin as well: Mauritian roti. Served with the same fillings, this meal is made with wheat flour instead of yellow split pea flour. Both are sold at about the same price.

If you’re not in the mood for some pancakes lathered with runny curry sauce and won’t take any chances to make a mess of yourself during your culinary expedition on the streets of the island of Mauritius, there are still a few options remaining. One item that will definitely be on your list is samosas.

Of course, samosas are quite commonplace now, even if Europe. But you can’t get enough of them, right? In Mauritius, samosas come in all sizes. From the ones that can be eaten in a single bite to the ones that will need three or four. The fillings can be varied too: you’ll be able to purchase them in chicken, fish, shrimp or just plain vegetable flavors.

Mauritian snacks. Photo by CC by NC-SA
Mauritian snacks. Photo by CC by NC-SA

The next item you’re sure not to miss are “gateaux piments”. Those are round fritters, made from split peas mixed with small green peppers and herbs. Again those can come in many sizes, although the biggest will not take more than two bites to gulp down. One popular way to eat “gateaux piments” is to eat them inside bread, with butter. Preferably when the bread is still warm.  It’s best consumed, or one should say savored, with the morning or afternoon tea.

Gateaux Piments. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.
Gateaux Piments. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

Among the other fritters sold as snacks all around the island you will find taro or yam root fritters, also locally known as “gateaux arouille”. Those deep-fried brown balls of goodness are best eaten hot with a little chilli sauce or chutney.

You won’t fail to notice more fritters as well during your survey of Mauritian street food because of their bright yellow color. In fact, at one point you might think that Mauritians can turn anything into a fritter, even plain bread. Which is exactly what thay’ve been doing. For decades. Known locally as “di pain frire”, fried bread in the local language, they are also best eaten with chilli sauce or chutney. The bright color comes from the food coloring that is incorporated into the batter in which the bread is dipped before it is deep-fried.

"Di pain frire". Photo by CC by NC-SA
“Di pain frire”. Photo by CC by NC-SA

Other fritters you may find with the same bright yellow coloring may include potato fritters (“gateaux pomme de terre”), eggplant (“gateaux bringelle”), cabbage (“gateaux li chou”) or breadfruit (“gateau fruit à pain”).

All of the above might be classified as the salty variety of Mauritian street food. if you have a sweet tooth, you won’t have to worry about finding sustenance either as you’ll find plenty of traditional street food being sold along the streets.

Among the sweet treats that Mauritius has to offer you’ll find “gateaux patates” – sweet potato cakes, “galette manioc” – cassava cakes (you’ll be very lucky if you find some, they’re becoming rare) , “pudding manioc” – cassava pudding, “poutou” – which can best be described as a sort of steamed rice bread, “gateau moutaille” – jalebi, “macatia coco” – really tasty coconut filled buns, thekua, “gateau banana” – banana fritters,  and the biggest, baddest, sweetest syrup-filled donuts you could ever get to eat on earth – known locally as “piaw”.

Jalebi. Photo by CC by 2.0
Jalebi. Photo by CC by 2.0

If you fancy some really exotic tastes, there are quite a lot of street vendors selling a great variety of pickled fruits as well.

As you can guess by now, you could never really go hungry during your holidays in Mauritius, even if you don’t have the money to eat at expensive restaurants each night. Whether it’s for the sake of your wallet or to savor the authentic taste of Mauritian traditional street food, it sure is rewarding to go off the beaten track in Mauritius.


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