A Mauritian Food Guide
December 17 2019
December 17 2019
Despite its size and modest population, the fabulous island nation of Mauritius boasts an extraordinary food culture, with delicious and satisfying dishes inspired by the diverse people of the country and their respective cultural heritages. Indian, European, Chinese and Creole flavours are evident in some of the country’s most-loved dishes, which are doled out in local eateries in generous portions.
The island’s rich, fertile soils give way to unparalleled local produce which ranges from sweet tropical fruits to fleshy vegetables. Many of these fresh ingredients take centre stage in Mauritian cuisine, often accompanied by seafood, chicken or meat, and skillfully flavoured with an aromatic blend of mild island- and Indian-inspired spices.
If you’re an intrepid traveller looking to make the most of a holiday in this fascinating destination, then one of the ultimate ways to familiarise yourself with the Mauritian culture is definitely to indulge in the local food. There are excellent restaurants across the island, but if you are pressed for time, we certainly recommend focusing on the island’s street food (in one of the local markets or in Port Louis, which has become famous for its local fare) which is both easy on the wallet and absolutely scrumptious.
Looking to sample some of the island’s fantastic delicacies? Here’s a quick guide to the Mauritian food to try while on holiday in the land of the dodo:
An absolute Mauritian staple, roti, farata or roti chaud (hot roti), is a moreish, buttery Indian flatbread that was introduced to the tropical island by Indian indentured labourers who were brought to work on sugar plantations under British rule. In Mauritius, roti’s are generally served with homemade pickles, chutney, white bean curry and rougaille sauce or served as an accompaniment to one of the island’s other famous curries. Roti stalls are prolific in Mauritius, but it’s not uncommon to see someone selling them from the back of their motorbike either.
You can expect to pay around Rs10-15 per roti at a street food stall in Mauritius.
Under colonialist rule in Mauritius, there was an influx of labourers, traders and immigrants who hailed mostly from Africa Indian and China. While the African and Indian immigrants were largely slaves and indentured labourers, the Chinese came to Mauritius either under the Dutch as prisoners who were made to work or during British and French rule to trade: immigrants looking to trade saw Mauritius as a land of immense opportunity.
As is the case with the other ethnicities, the Chinese traders brought with them an array of delightful food which, over time, evolved into Sino-Mauritian variations, such as Mine Bouille. The direct translation of this dish is “boiled noodles” and it unsurprisingly (given its name), centres on freshly-prepared Mauritian noodles accompanied by a variety of optional toppings.
A mine bouille dish starts at around Rs30 which increases as toppings are added (which typically cost between Rs10 and Rs15 each). Vegetarian toppings are less expensive than the meat options, and a complete dish usually consists of several ingredients, depending on the preferences of the consumer.
If you were to order a bowl of mine bouille with chicken and an egg, it would cost around Rs60 (Rs15 for each topping).
Haalim (or Haleem)
Haalim is a wonderfully popular soup-like stew that draws inspiration from Middle Eastern, Asian and Indian cuisines and makes for the ultimate comfort food. Traditionally, it is made with meat, such as lamb, as a central ingredient, but it can be made vegan as well. The meat is then cooked along with the rest of the ingredients - such as onion, cardamom, lentils, garlic, ginger, split peas, barley, turmeric, chilli and pepper - for hours until tender. It’s served hot, topped with spring onions (or other garnishes) and enjoyed with freshly baked bread such as baguettes or “round bread”.
A bowl of Haalim (with meat) will cost between Rs30 and Rs50 when bought from a street food stall.
Vona Corona’s ice cream
The perfect accompaniment to a hot day in Mauritius is definitely some of the local homemade ice cream served up at one of the famous Vona Corona outlets. The Jewon family-run Vona Corona, which was started some 100 years ago in Rose Hill, where it was distributed from the founder’s tricycle, serves up traditional artisanal ice creams that have gained huge popularity since the brand’s inception.
Foodies have the choice between a number of flavours, but three of the most popular are vanilla, almond and chocolate. No matter which flavour you choose, however, you can rest assured that the ice cream will be spooned onto the cup, cone or wafer as per the brand’s tradition, and finished off with Vona Cornona’s signature pink pineapple jam (made from a secret family recipe) and pink grated coconut. During avo season, you might even be lucky enough to sample Vona Cornona’s unique avo-flavoured ice cream.
Stemming from a one-man tricycle selling ice cream in his neighbourhood to one of Mauritius' most loved street foods, a taste of Vona Corona’s ice cream is a must. The price varies between Rs15 and Rs30 for ice cream cones and cups, but it’s also available in tubs ranging from 500ml to 3 litres which can cost between Rs100 and Rs400.
Gato Arouille (taro cakes)
The Gato Arouille is another unique Sino-Mauritian unique street food favourite in Mauritius. This savoury dish is technically made up of small taro (this is a root vegetable grown predominantly in tropical countries but native to Southeast Asia and South India) dumplings, traditionally created through the perfect blend of grated ginger and taro and flavoured with salt and sugar. The ingredients are then combined with cornstarch, made into a rough dough, rolled into small balls and deep-fried to perfection for that satisfying crunch on the outside but beautifully soft inside.
Their unique - and for many, addictive - flavour is enhanced with chilli or tomato chutney: trust us, you will want to go back for more of these flavourful morsels which are often served after sunset during Ramadan.
Gato Arouille can be enjoyed for around Rs10 (for three bite-sized flavour bombs) but the prices do vary depending on the size of the cakes.
To complement your Mauritian street food experience we recommend trying an Alouda, a hugely popular drink with the locals. This is a type of Mauritian milkshake that is made with grated homemade agar-agar jelly, milk, basil seeds and ice cream. It originates from South Asia and should be reserved for your “cheat day”, but it’s definitely worth the calories. Other Mauritian drinks include coconut water that can be enjoyed straight from a freshly-cut coconut, sugar cane juice, the local vanilla tea and of course, the country’s famous rum (which is wonderful in a cocktail).
An alouda will cost between Rs15-Rs30 in a glass, but a 1-litre bottle could cost up to Rs100.
There’s no shortage of deep-fried goodness in Mauritius and another mouth-watering treat comes in the form of Chana puri - fritters stuffed with yellow split peas (flavoured with the likes of salt, cumin, masala and turmeric), served with chilli sauce or tomato chutney and best enjoyed piping hot.
These normally cost Rs5 each or Rs10 for three, depending on the size.
Indian 7 Curries
The name of this magnificent dish gives quite a bit away: inspired by Indian and South India, the Indian 7 Curries is really a vegetarian flavour journey, where you have the chance to sample 7 different sumptuous curries in one spread (much like a tasting plate) which is then served on a banana leaf alongside puris (a type of deep-fried bread made without yeast) and basmati rice. The best part? It’s traditionally meant to be eaten with your hands. There are two types of this dish in Mauritius, a Hindu version and Tamil version (from the South of India). Enjoyed on special occasions, weddings and festivals, don’t miss a chance to enjoy this speciality dish.
Samosas and Gato Piment
Some more famous Mauritian deep-fried treats include gato piment (incredible chilli cakes) and samosas. Samosas stem from Indian cuisine and come in several flavour combinations that include vegan, vegetarian and non-vegetarian varieties. Some of the most popular fillings include cheese, onion, potato and chicken, with those containing beef and pork being the rarer varieties in Mauritius.
In-line with the prices of many other street food items, you can generally buy 3 samosas for Rs10 if they are small or between Rs5-10 each for bigger ones.
Last but certainly not least is the much-loved Biryani, without which a Mauritian food guide would be incomplete. Possibly the most popular street food of them all, the Mauritian Biryani was greatly inspired by the original Indian version. This dish involves ingredients such as star anise, onions, ginger, garlic, ghee, a protein (usually chicken, beef, mutton, lamb or fish), potatoes, yoghurt and authentic Indian spices such as saffron. The ingredients are expertly layered and cooked in a pressure cooker.
Considered to be a complex dish to create, meticulous preparation, balancing of flavours and cooking of Biryani is typically left to skilled cooks who often have their own secret recipes or ingredients.
You can expect to pay Rs100 on average for a chicken biryani in Mauritius.
Indulge in a street food tour to remember while on holiday and relish the sublime flavours of Mauritius. Looking for the perfect place to stay? Then take a look at one of our Sun Resorts, where offering authentic, signature Mauritian experiences are something we pride ourselves on.