Yes, there are beaches Mark Twain cited as Paradise being second best to, and volcanic earth the colours of the rainbow, but what you really need to get on the plane to Mauritius for, is the food.
Stuffed rotis made from yellow split peas, impossibly thin and served in pairs, these are the ultimate street food – and quintessentially Mauritian. Smeared with butter bean curry, zingy tomato rougialle, pickles and chilli sauce and then wrapped and rolled in paper, these are delicious and messy. I defy you to stop at one pair.
Sometimes, these richly savoury and flakey crepes are served alongside spiced rice pudding topped with flaked almonds and infused with cardamon. Sounds strange, but very delicious.
Dewa and Sons in Rose Hill is reportedly the best, but I think it can be more accurately described as the oldest. There are always queues snaking out of the doors, and by 1pm on a weekend, they completely sell out. We queued up for three pairs and caught up in the frenzy of missing out and the door closing behind us confirming us in the queue as their last customers, we ended up ordering double the amount.
In my opinion, better versions can be found in Port Louis, the capital city, from Bere. My uncle would zip over on his bike and bring them home still hot as we all were waking up in the morning.
Gajak and Confit
Fried savoury cakes that come in lots of variants such as pakoras made with awi, a type of starchy potato, bajas, chickpea flour based dough balls, and chana puris, puffy balls of dough filled with mince and dahl, all drenched in chilli sauce and tomato chutney. Best eaten after a swim at one of the gorgeous beaches from one of the beach vendors. Pick the one with the longest queue and you’re golden.
Confit are pickles. Long chunks of Mauritian yellow cucumber pickled in sugar cane vinegar, spices and sugar or Victoria pineapples, sweet and intricately carved. The crunch is complemented by sprinkles of chilli powder and lashings of tamarind sauce for the ultimate sweet, sour, hot and salty crunch
Mine Frite is fusion Chinese food and Mauritians version of fried noodles. A mix of chopped veg, noodles and meat and seafood and generously drenched in garlic infused sauce. One portion can feed 2 or 3, though I did watch my sister devour a whole portion to herself and was in awe. In Mahebourg, Saveur de Chine is cheap and plentiful whilst the atmosphere at this family run restaurant is convivial and inclusive. Comlone, which have a few outposts, also serve an excellent version but booking here is advised as one of the locals best kept secrets. On the streets of Port Louis from the bustling night markets, the stalls around La Rue Deforges near the Shell garage is your best best. If you head to Bagatelle Mall, Taste of Asia’s version is also stand out.
Perhaps the most lauded dish for Mauritians, a true celebration highlighting their indian heritage of indentured slaves who came to Mauritius. Cooked in huge steel drums over coal and sealed with dough, these are best eaten at weddings, if you can get an invite! In the likely event that you won’t Star Deg, in the capital, do a very good one with beef, chicken, fish or veg.
Biscuit Manioc (or Cassava Biscuits)
Henri Rault, one of the French sugar cane factory owners in Mauritius was feeling homesick and so tried to recreate the famous sable biscuits of his home country. The resulting recipe and product lasts to this day and is unique to Mauritius. They make them nowhere else in the world and they are only produced in one little factory in the outskirts of Mahebourg. They taste warm and toasty, favoured with coconut, or butter, or cinnamon, or star anise or chocolate. Perfect with a cup of Bois Cherie tea, also produced on the island.