The best way to see the delicious fresh produce (from octopus to okra) that Mauritius offers is to visit one of the island’s many vibrant food markets. There’s a food market in just about every town in Mauritius – from the bustling covered markets in Port Louis, brimming with vegetables, spices, herbs, salted dried fish and fresh meat, to the tiny fisherman’s market every afternoon in Grand Baie on the beach, where the day’s catch is displayed on a couple of trestle tables.
Exploring Mauritius’ food markets gives you insight into this tiny island’s remarkably diverse cuisine.
If you’re self-catering in Mauritius, food markets are where you want to shop for fresh goods – they’re cheaper than the supermarkets and offer a more exciting shopping experience than fluorescent-lit aisles.
Compared to other food markets I’ve visited in Africa, the vendors at Mauritius’ food markets are remarkably friendly and warm – they’re usually happy to pose for a photo (just ask first).
The famous food markets at Port Louis are at the top of most tourists’ to-do lists when they visit the Mauritian capital. There’s a huge fruit and vegetable market crammed with produce fresh from the fields of the island – still dripping in dew from irrigation. Just outside the fruit and veg section are the meat and fish market sections. These are sadly a lot smaller than they used to be – in recent years butchers and fishermen have started selling to supermarkets instead (note that the meat market is not recommended for squeamish vegetarians). There’s also a food hall that sells the best alouda (a milky pink drink with syrup flavourings) in Mauritius, tamarind juice, black jelly (tastes nicer than it sounds), sandwiches and dhal puris.
Where: Central Port Louis, on Queen and Corderie Streets (park at the waterfront – it’s a mission to find parking right by the market).
Tip: Get there early – before 9am – before it gets super busy.
The market at Rose Hill, a town fairly close to Port Louis, is small and unassuming, but that’s what I liked about it. There aren’t any tourists, and people are friendly and chatty – very willing to be photographed with their tables of gorgeously red tomatoes or baskets of super-sized patty pans.
Where: In the centre of town
Tip: Go for a dhal puri at Dewa & Sons on Royal Road after your visit to the market. This cheap-as-chips restaurant makes the best dhal puris in Mauritius, according to almost every local you ask.
There isn’t a tourist tout or beach bag in sight at the Flacq market, which I visited one overcast Sunday morning. This is a bustling fruit and veg covered market for locals, with noisy bartering, smells of cabbage and potatoes and occasional whiffs of salted, dried fish.
When: Wednesdays and Sundays
Where: In the centre of Flacq, a town close to Belle Mare on the east coast.
Highlights: Stock up on ready-made mazavaroo on the outskirts of the market to take home for chilli-loving friends.
‘An enormous maze of tactile colours at the Vacoas market highlighted everything from patty pans the size of your hand and forearm-length ‘baby’ marrows, to baskets of psychedelic chillis, hedges of herbs and artfully carved pineapples. There were recognisable fruits and vegetables, but then there were also things that could have come off another planet. Chou chou, navet, pipangaye, patol, calbase and zat are some of the names I was told when I pointed quizzically. I recognised the chou chou from the night before and knew it tasted a little like a hubbard squash, only sweeter. Along the perimeter of the market were clothing and basket stalls as well as Indian delights being sold by vendors. Spicy samoosas and chilli bites contrasted with the gelatinous, sweet maize and rice cakes dusted with grated coconut’ says Leigh Stefanski of her visit to the Vacoas market.
When: Tuesdays and Fridays
Where: Vacoas, central Mauritius
Other Mauritius food markets to try:
There’s an informal fish market with the ‘catch of the day’ on the beach in Grand Baie every afternoon from around 4pm.
The market at Mahebourg on Mondays offers an array of colourful fruit and vegetables, and there’s also a smaller daily market.
The Quatre Bournes market (Thursdays and Sundays) sells mostly clothes but the food vendors are excellent.
Goodlands, in the northeast of the island, has a vegetable market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Mauritius food markets in photos: