Posted by & filed under Destinations, Food, Food culture, On assignment, Travel Blog, Travel ideas, Travel stories.   Print this post

I’ve just returned from one of my best travel assignments for Getaway Magazine so far: a week-long trip to Mauritius with photographer Russell Smith. Our mission: to discover the best food on the island, from roadside snacks to gourmet dishes in top restaurants.

In a week, we drove around the entire island (getting lost once for about 10 minutes), and explored a Mauritius that many tourists don’t ever see from the confines of their resorts.

We found the best dhal puris (rotis filled with dal and pickles) on the island (at Dewa in Rose-Hill), ate Creole feasts of curry, stews and chutneys, discovered delicious peanut rougaille in a 150-yr old colonial mansion, chowed gateau piments (chilli cakes) on the beach in Grand Baie, ate octopus curry (chewy) in a tiny restaurant booming Rihanna in Trou d’eau douce, found the best dim sum this side of Hong Kong at First Restaurant in Port Louis, cooled down with alouda and tamarind juice in the Port Louis market, ate fried noodles with extra chilli in Chinatown (followed by refreshing, but weird-looking black herbal jelly), ate our first palm hearts in the famous ‘Millionaire’s Salad’, drank the best vanilla tea in the world at Bois Cheri (and maybe the worst coffee), and learned to eat chilli (piment) with everything, as the Mauritians do.

We nearly got blown off a cliff overlooking a beach called ‘Black Magic’ in an anti-cyclone, ate the best crème brulee ever (made with the world’s rarest vanilla) and the most vanilla-ish vanilla ice cream (not made with rare vanilla), discovered that Mauritius’ big tourist attraction (7 coloured earths) is a glorified sandpit, learned a hundred facts about sugar and that a sugar tasting gives you a glucose high, ate Mauritian pizza (farata topped with local greens and served with atchar) and Mauritian tapas (deep-fried cassava chips), explored 150-year-old mansions trying to imagine the lives of French plantation owners on the once disease-ridden island, sipped from coconuts on the beach as the sun set over the Indian Ocean, found Mauritius’ cemetery with a view, smelled spice trees and saw a rare blooming talipot palm (they only bloom every 30 years) in Pamplemousses’ amazing botanical gardens, ate fried tiny shrimp and chickpeas with chilli and tomatoes in the bustling Sunday Flacq market, did three rum tastings and realised that I still don’t really like rum (even if it is award-winning, aged in French oak for three years and flavoured with lemongrass, star anise, vanilla and kumquat), sauna-ed with naked German honeymooners (in a very small sauna), learned how to make Creole prawn curry, farata and deep-fried sweet potato cakes stuffed with coconut and cardamom, and found that coconut jam and a freshly-baked buttery croissant make the best breakfast ever.

Mauritius completely exceeded my expectations. I expected it to be overly-touristy and smothered in tanning Europeans. I didn’t expect a fascinating, diverse food culture, amazingly warm and welcoming people, a huge array of foodie attractions and unspoiled and untouristy beaches and landscapes. If you think Mauritius is full of resorts with nothing to do other than lie on the beach, think again (and then book your flight).

 Look out for our story in the February 2012 issue of Getaway.

Read my blog on the best 25 things to eat and drink in Mauritius. 

 

 

Dhal puri - the favourite Mauritian snack

Dhal puri - the favourite Mauritian snack

 

The old and the new in Port Louis

The old and the new in Port Louis

 

Port Louis market

Port Louis market

 

Chouchou in Port Louis Market

Chouchou in Port Louis Market

 

Chillies (piments) in Port Louis Market

Chillies (piments) in Port Louis Market

 

Giant patty pans at the Port Louis Market

Giant patty pans at the Port Louis Market

 

The Port Louis fruit and veg market

The Port Louis fruit and veg market

 

The Port Louis meat market

The Port Louis meat market

 

Port Louis

Port Louis

 

Essential Mauritian condiments: cinnamon, sugar and chillies

Essential Mauritian condiments: cinnamon, sugar and chillies

 

Eureka - a colonial mansion that serves delicious Creole food

Eureka - a colonial mansion that serves delicious Creole food

 

Sweet potato cakes stuffed with sugar, cardamom and coconut

Sweet potato cakes stuffed with sugar, cardamom and coconut

 

The beach at La Pirogue, Flic en Flac

The beach at La Pirogue, Flic en Flac

 

Roti chaud from the back of a motorbike

Roti chaud from the back of a motorbike

 

Shrine with a view, near Belle Mare

Shrine with a view, near Belle Mare

 

Chocolate rum pudding and vanilla ice cream at Rhumerie de Chamarel

Chocolate rum pudding and vanilla ice cream at Rhumerie de Chamarel

 

LUX Le Morne - my favourite resort on the island

LUX Le Morne - my favourite resort on the island

 

Phoenix beer - it's tasty

Phoenix beer - it's tasty

 

Chateau Labourdonnais - a wonderfully restored colonial mansion

Chateau Labourdonnais - a wonderfully restored colonial mansion

 

Dorado, brede and calbas at Chateau Labourdonnais

Dorado, brede and calbas at Chateau Labourdonnais

 

Rum tasting at Chateau Labourdonnais

Rum tasting at Chateau Labourdonnais

 

Epic scenery on the east coast road of Mauritius

Epic scenery on the east coast road of Mauritius

 

Mauritian pizza - farata topped with brede and mozzarella, served with atchar

Mauritian pizza - farata topped with brede and mozzarella, served with atchar

 

Boulet - Mauritian dim sum

Boulet - Mauritian dim sum

 

Retro fruit stand at Belle Mare

Retro fruit stand at Belle Mare

 

Fried tiny shrimp at the Sunday market in Flacq

Fried tiny shrimp at the Sunday market in Flacq

 

Flacq Sunday market

Flacq Sunday market

 

Sunday Flacq market

Sunday Flacq market

 

Tiny chillies for sale at Flacq market - tiny but lethal

Tiny chillies for sale at Flacq market - tiny but lethal

 

Gris Gris - 'Black Magic' beach

Gris Gris - 'Black Magic' beach

 

Cemetery with a view!

Cemetery with a view!

 

Prawn rougaille - a delicious tomato-based Creole curry

Prawn rougaille - a delicious tomato-based Creole curry

 

Bois Cheri tea factory

Bois Cheri tea factory

 

Bois Cheri tea plantation

Bois Cheri tea plantation

 

Veg seller in Belle Mare

Veg seller in Belle Mare

 

Talipot palm in Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens

Talipot palm in Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens

 

Mountain rose tree in the botanical gardens

Mountain rose tree in the botanical gardens

 

Deep-fried cassava (manioc) - Mauritian tapas!

Deep-fried cassava (manioc) - Mauritian tapas!

 

A vanilla plant (did you know it's an orchid?)

A vanilla plant (did you know it's an orchid?)

 

A palm heart for 'Millionaire's Salad'

A palm heart for 'Millionaire's Salad'

 

The beach at La Pirogue, Flic en Flac

The beach at La Pirogue, Flic en Flac

 

 



3 Responses to “Palm hearts and piments: a foodie exploration of Mauritius”

  1. Armand

    Thanks Sarah for taking me on a tour of my little island where i grew up, it gave me great pleasure to relive some of the places and typical mauritian cooking.
    Did you enjoy your holiday there.
    Regards.
    Armand Rougier Lagane.

    Reply
    • Sarah Duff

      Thanks for your comment Armand! I had an amazing time in Mauritius and loved getting into the island’s food culture. I will definitely be back :)

      Reply
  2. Kaz

    Love it. Next time definitely have a sandwich from Mc N Ben. SO good. Found in Beau Bassin :)

    Reply

Leave a Reply