There is nothing better than eating your way through a destination. And there are plenty options in Mauritius, including frequenting local hangouts to dining with a local. Some of the favourite foods to look out for are dholl puris, roti (also known as faratas) and curry de grois pois (butter beans), spicy tomato rougaille, pickles and Mauritian Gato Piments (Chilli Bites) – and lick your fingers after eating it the traditional way.
Take a street food trip in the Mauritian capital, Port Louis, starting with a stop at the Central Market (opposite the Port Louis Waterfront) where tables are laden with an incredible variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, an assortment of spices, the meat, fish, and seafood section, and even a section selling herbal medicines. Feeling peckish? Dine like a local as you grab a dholl puri (a round pancake made from flour and split peas and filled with local curries and chutneys) from Maraz, followed by a glass of alouda, a ‘Mauritian milkshake’ made from milk and tukmaria (basil) seeds, from Pillay’s.
Strolling the neighbouring streets is an adventure in itself, but for the foodie there are many delights to be found, such as the very unassuming little Chinese Biscuit Shop on Venpin Street, that is the biggest supplier of Chinese cakes in Port Louis, and Bombay Sweets Mart on Remy Ollier Street which is well known for its Indian cakes and sweets. Or pop into Café Shanghai on Louis Pasteur Street for some dim sums – apparently the best in Port Louis, as the queues will attest. Keep a look out as you go for splashes of colour from the street art that adorns the walls adding to the masterpieces from a bygone era – the historic walls, old doors, and roughly paved sidewalks.
But the ultimate in authentic dining must surely be a guest in a Mauritian home.
And with Hotels Attitude you can. Guests are invited to dine like a local and enjoy an Otentik Dinner (authentic) in the home of one of their Family Members (the staff, almost all of whom are Mauritian, are very much part of the Attitude family).
We are invited into the home of Ved Bhujun, one of the Ravenala Attitude barmen, and his family. His lovely wife Rajshree welcomes us with a traditional Indian blessing and soon we are watching chilli bites, samosas and battered bringal being fried, and paratha (a flat bread similar to roti) being rolled – we were graciously given the opportunity to try our hand at this too… not an easy task, and I’m sure mine was relegated to the rejects pile!
It is a balmy evening, and we sit on their terrace. With the popular rum and coke poured and the delicious starters consumed, Ved places a green paper sheet on the table in front of each of us. “This is your banana leaf”, he says, “we cannot use the real ones at the moment as there is banana leaf spot disease on the island”. It detracts little from the ambiance of the evening.
Before long we are dining on delicious Indian Mauritian food… bean curry, chicken curry, ocra chutney, cooked sousou (chayote) and pickles all eaten with the paratha – with fork or fingers, the choice is yours, and washed down with local Phoenix beer.
After much conversation and laughter, we progressed to each having a henna tattoo and dressing up in traditional Indian dress – the men look very dashing in their Achkan, a knee-length coat worn for formal or festive occasions. And the women delightful in the vibrantly coloured saris. Rajshree wraps the exquisite length of silk fabric around my body – all six metres of it! I have always wanted to wear a sari and feel quite the part. Now I’m ready to sway my hips to the rhythm of the sega… a fun way to end off our memorable ‘dine with a local’ evening!!
Words – Tessa Buhrmann / Images – Hotels Attitude, Tessa Buhrmann