Featured Country of the month: Mauritius
Mauritius is an Indian Ocean Island nation, 1200 miles of the east coast of Africa. I was inspired to choose Mauritius this month after scrolling through Tik Tok and seeing a recreation of one of their national dishes; Dal Puri. I didn’t know anything about the cuisine of Mauritius and had expected based on the dish I had seen and the geography of the island that perhaps Dal Puri was an African inspired curry and that the rest of the cuisine would be similar.
I was surprised to discover instead that a culinary mix of French, Indian and Chinese dishes make up the national cuisine. Seriously - a typical day eating in Mauritius could see you consume a croissant for breakfast, curry for lunch and Dim Sum for dinner! Through different waves of colonisation and immigration each of these nationalities have brought their heritage dishes with them, adapting them to suit the Mauritian climes.
If you are familiar with Indian cuisine, the origin of this dish will come as no great surprise - it is thought that Dholl Puri made its way over to Mauritius with the indentured labourers of India in the 1800s under British rule. Dholl Puri is essentially dhal stuffed flatbread - however, the dhal that is made in Mauritius is made using yellow split peas instead of lentils and instead of the bread being fried - as puri suggests - it is pan cooked. It is thought that the dish came about as a result of food rationing. When making flatbread, the Indian workers would use the water they had cooked their dhal in - resulting in dhal being incidentally mixed into the dough. This eventually evolved into a dish within its own right!
The Dholl Puri by itself tends to be dry and so it is always served with some kind of sauce or condiment - the most common accompaniment is Cari Gros Pois (butter bean curry) which is what I made here.
I started out by making the butter bean curry which was quick and easy to whip up and will definitely be made again in the future as a quick weeknight meal. The Dholl Puri took a little bit more effort. I think there must have been a yellow split shortage going on when I was attempting to make this dish as I had to go to at least 4 different supermarkets to find these little guys! When I eventually did, I had to soak them for 8 hours and then boil them for about 30 minutes until they squished easily between two fingers. The water is reserved for the dough and the split peas are whizzed up in a food processor until they turn into a fine powder. The dough is made with the cooking water and flour and is then stuffed with the split pea powder. Once rolled out into individual flatbreads, the Dholl Puri is cooked in a hot pan, then served up with the Cari Gros Pois.
Did you like it?
Very much so - the texture of the bread worked really well with the wetter curry and it did an excellent job of soaking up the juices.
Marks out of 10: 8/10
I read ‘fried chilli bite’ and was instantly sold on making this. Despite the distinctly French name, this is another street food dish believed to be Indian in origin. Remarkably similar to falafel, Gateaux Piment is made with yet more yellow split pea lentils, instead of chickpeas. Similarly to Dholl Puri, the yellow split peas are whizzed into a fine paste, and then various spices, herbs and chilli are added. Gateaux Piment is typically served with a buttered baguette.
This was a very simple dish to make, especially as I was already soaking split peas for the Dholl Puri. It’s just deep fried yumminess - hard to get wrong!
Did you like it?
I wish I had done more research before I went shopping as eating these in a buttered baguette sounds like heaven. Alas, they still tasted good solo - just like a slightly different textured falafel!
Marks out of 10: 8/10
Boullettes Chou Chou (Niouk Yen)
I didn’t intentionally pick two spherical foods for this month’s newsletter but I will strive for more variety within my next country’s dishes. I am a sucker for dumplings though and couldn’t resist giving these a go. Niouk Yen is referred to as Dim Sum in Mauritius and is quite obviously a Chinese influenced dish however, you won’t find dumplings like this in China, making it uniquely Mauritian.
One of the key ingredients for these dumplings is Chayote, or Chou Chou as it is referred to in Mauritius. I had not heard of Chou Chou before but I recognised that I had seen it in Asda's vegetable section before and was keen to learn more about it. It looks like an overgrown fat pear and it has a similar texture to apple. Grated Chou Chou forms the basis of the dumpling and various additional ingredients can be added - usually chicken on prawn and a variety of different seasonings. Cornflour is used to ensure they stick together. The dumplings are then steamed until cooked.
Boulettes Chou Chou is usually served either in a soup or with a chilli dipping oil on the side.
I think it’s quite obvious from the photo that these didn’t turn out perfectly. I don’t think it’s a pretty dish at the best of times, but mine do look particularly heinous. On reflection, I did a terrible job of scaling down a recipe that made quite a substantial batch and I think my questionable arithmetic skills led to an unfavourable texture.
Did you like it?
I liked the idea of this more than I liked them in reality. I firmly believe that if I tasted a well executed version of these, they would be delicious - however, mine were gloopy and unpleasant to eat.
Marks out of 10: 3/10
You can view all previous 'Country of the Month' articles HERE.