12 of the best things to eat and drink in Reunion

Posted by Kati Auld on 30 July 2014

What happens when you leave a chunk of France to marinate in the Indian Ocean for a few hundred years? You’ll have to eat your way through Reunion Island to find out.

(Check out my photoblog here: Reunion Island in 11 snapshots)

South African visitors no longer require a French visa to visit Reunion (learn more about that here) so the little French island has jumped way up my must-travel list. Apart from an active volcano and some of the most amazing canyons I’ve ever explored, the food was a highlight. If you’re worried about stretching your rands into euros, don’t worry – you can avoid fancy restaurants and still eat like a king within your budget.


12 of the best things to eat and drink on Reunion Island

1. Baguettes and croissants

croissant, pain au chocolat

Dip your croissant in black coffee and cackle like Théoden in Lord of the Rings; “Haha, Tim Noakes – you have no power here!”


2. Macaroon


Macaroons in all flavours and colours: the market in Saint-Pierre is heaven. Photo by Kati Auld

I had a salted caramel macaroon in Saint-Pierre, and I’ve honestly never been the same again.


3. Poulet bitumine

There are little roadside stalls all over the place selling these deliciously crispy birds, for eating on the run. Hence the name – literally, “tarmac chicken.”


4. Cheese

Almost everything on the island is imported. Once you’ve spent the equivalent of R30 on an oozy fat wedge of French Camembert, you’ll decide that airmiles are delicious.


5. Dodo

dodo, beer

After jumping through the canyons of Rivier des Roches, there’s nothing like a Dodo. Photo by Kati Auld

The local beer, Bourbon, is affectionately referred to as the Dodo, for reasons that should be obvious. It comes in an adorable little “medicine bottle” shape, and is the absolute perfect thing to drink after – for example – jumping from 12 metre-high rocks into the Rivier des Roches. (If you’re an adventurous person heading to Reunion, check out RUN Adventures in Saint Benoit. You will not regret it).


6. Chou-chou gratin

Chou-chou is originally a South American vegetable – it’s of the gourd family, and has a courgette-like texture. You’ll find it all over Reunion – but it’s best after being smothered in white sauce and cheese, and then grilled.


7. Carambolle


Delicious carambolle at the market in Saint Pierre. Photo by Kati Auld

This beautiful starfruit also made an appearance in this photoblog – it’s tart, and juicy, and tastes like some sort of grapefruit-plum. Awesome stuff.


8. Rougail

A delicious chili sauce that you’ll find on the side of most dishes: a bit bitter, it’s a bit sour, a bit salty, and a lot spicy. It can be made with all sorts of things – mango, lemon, or tomatoes – and is not a million miles away from lime atchar.


9. Sugarcane

sugarcane, reunion

I didn’t know that sugarcane came in such an array of colours. Photo by Kati Auld

Sugarcane is one of the few things that is grown on the island. It’s turned into #10 on this list, of course, but after that it can be used as “bagasse“, an eco-friendly biofuel.


10. Rhum arrange

This rum can be infused with pineapple, litchi, cinnamon, or even orchid flower – and you’ll usually have a shot to sip after dinner. It is dangerously delicious.


11. Tipunch

tipunch, capirinha, cocktail

Straight rum, some sugar, and a lime. That’s tipunch for you. Photo by Kati Auld

The first time I tasted tipunch, I assumed there was some mistake at the bar. Even with my – ahem – South African tendencies, I’m not accustomed to drinking a glass of straight rum. I’m not sure whether the drink got weaker or I got – ahem – stronger, but by the end of the week tipunch and I were best friends.


12. Vanilla


From pollination to market-place, producing vanilla takes almost two years. Photo by Kati Auld

On our first night in Reunion, I had swordfish with vanilla cream at Villa Vanille. It was, as they say, the beginning of a beautiful friendship. No longer should vanilla be isolated in the baking section of life – it shall run freely through the corridors of my kitchen, playing with the savoury food as well as sweet, and my tastebuds will know peace. Amen.
Interested in visiting this amazing little island yourself? Beware: you might never come back! But you can find all the info you need about flights and accommodation here.

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