The memory that many travellers take home from a holiday stay in Mauritius is that of silent beauty – a vision of turquoise lagoons with sandy beaches, fishermen along the shore or in their boats and palm trees silhouetted against a spectacular sunset. It’s a magical, but typical take on a tropical island vacation.
Like anywhere, though, Mauritius is much much more. It can be difficult for visitors to get a real sense of all that this small island destination has to offer, but we try to help as best we can.
What is one tactic? Why not start with the gastronomy!?
Food is like art – a reflection of a country’s culture. Every place on the planet, even a small remote island like Mauritius, stands forever proud of its culinary traditions. And today, food is much more to travel than a simple means of survival. It has become a sophisticated and pleasurable integral part of it.
On Mauritius, Chinese and French cuisines are two gastronomic pillars: they have been not only instrumental in the evolution of our dishes, but are testimony to the interesting multiethnic qualities of our culture.
A visit to Mauritius is like time travel through three centuries of cross-cultural cohabitation, during which the give and take between local tastes and foreign influences resulted in something truly distinct. Like the many faces of our island – a crossroads for three continents – Mauritian cuisine is rustic in its simplicity and dazzling in its refinement.
A Kitchen Journey in Eureka House
When visitors to Mauritius travel with us, we like to take visitors on random journeys through our kitchens, paying special attention to indigenous practices and ingredients. We always begin by explaining the cornerstones of our cuisine – simple dishes such as curries and rougails. These are served with the basic elements of rice, brèdes and chutneys. They dishes never fail to charm our guests. To fully grasp their appealing simplicity, see below for a typical tomato chutney recipe that you can easily make at home.
One of our favourite stops – one we highly recommend – is Euréka House in Moka, a window onto Mauritian colonial history and Creole culture. This preserved period mansion was built in the early 1850s by an English notable, who sold it soon after to a wealthy Franco-Mauritian family. Today it is owned by Jacques de Maroussem, who has restored the property and opened it to the public, primarily as a museum, although a traditional Creole lunch can be enjoyed on the shaded veranda that encircles the main building. In keeping with the Creole style, the house has a large number of doors that ensure adequate ventilation during the hot summers.
Today, visitors choosing to take a meal on the property can also visit the traditional external stone kitchen (pictured above), in which the staff presents the various traditional items used in preparing the food. The kitchen is still very much in use.
After the lunch another Euréka highlight is a walk down the slope of the ravine to the Moka River that passes through the property. Here, three small waterfalls and exotic plants and flowers make for a rich display. Visitors can choose a guide or stroll around on their own for a couple of hours, splash in the river and enjoy the majestic views of the Moka Mountains.
Tomato Chutney – 6 to 8 servings
- 1/4 kg ripe tomatoes (or pommes d’amour)
- 1 small onion
- 1 teaspoon crushed fresh ginger
- ¼ teaspoon crushed garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- pinch of chilli powder
- small chillies, crushed or sliced (optional)
- salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- chopped coriander leaves (optional)
Plunge the tomatoes in boiling water for about 10 seconds or grill them over a charcoal fire. Peel off the skins and chop the pulp using a food mill or a food processor. Cut the onion into thin slices and add to the crushed tomatoes. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with parsley and coriander.
Note: The tomatoes may also be used raw and placed directly in the food mill or food processor.
Caution: Use chillies and coriander in moderation, as chillies in excess will cause more pain than pleasure. The strong taste of coriander is not a favourite of many diners.
Visit the whl.travel Flickr photostream for a set of more pictures of Mauritius.