To know someone is to know his culture. In Mauritius, where the very essence of our identity is rooted in our multiculturalism, the best way to experience the island is through the food. Let’s dive into the melting pot of tastes, colours and delicious scents that is the street food culture of Mauritius.
Back to basics: the ‘Gato Pima’
No matter the social status, ethnicity and background of any Mauritian, they all have one thing in common: an unwavering passion for ‘gato pima’. This crunchy yet soft fried ball made of dhal, spices, herbs and chili derives its creole name from the French ‘gâteau piment’, meaning chilli cake.
Far from a cake, however, it tastes more like a fluffier version of a falafel. You can find it in literally every city or village, sold by a grandma in front of her little shop or by a singing man on his bicycle or even in fancy restaurants.
To eat an authentic ‘gato pima’, go to one of the most famous vendors in the town of Rose-Hill, near the main church. If you go there, don’t forget to sample the other delicacies like ‘chanapuri’, ‘samosas’ or ‘baja’, with his famous tomato chutney. If you cannot find it, just ask a passer-by for a bright pink truck that makes the best gato pima in town.
Comfort food: ‘boulettes’ and ‘halim’
Due to our tropical climate, Mauritius never really gets too cold but during the winter months, we all need some comfort food. Mauritians then turn to their staple hot street foods: ‘boulettes’ and ‘halim’.
‘Boulettes’ are like round dumplings in a hot savoury broth. They are enjoyed all year long but are particularly satisfying in winter, especially if you add a bit of chilli sauce. ‘Boulettes’ are found everywhere but to live the whole experience, why not go to the beach of Albion and enjoy a beautiful sunset while eating at one of the most famous boulettes spots of the island.
‘Halim’ is a thick soup made of dhal and beef and is very spicy. Eaten with a piece of bread, it is medicine for the soul and a perfect remedy for a hangover. Rarer than boulettes, good ‘halim’ places are most of the time known only by the locals. Ask any Mauritian for their favourite ‘halim’ place and they’ll gladly bring you there.
A noodle paradise: the ‘Mine’
Mine for Mauritians is like croissant for the French or fish and chips for the British: we all have our favourite type. ‘Mine bwi’ is boiled noodles with either beef or chicken with a sunny side up egg and ‘mine frir’ is fried noodles with the same kind of toppings. Each Mauritian has a different opinion on the best ‘mine’ snack and this subject is often the cause of heated but amusing arguments. To find your favourite ‘mine’ bwi, the best thing is to experience a few types because no two ‘mine’ bwi are the same.
A love story: the roti
No street food is as deeply rooted in a Mauritian’s heart as the roti. This flatbread filled with all sorts of curry is anything from a quick cheap lunch to a remedy for the blues. It is eaten at home, on the street, in front of a desk, when it’s hot or when it’s cold and especially during a cyclone. Roti is embedded in a Mauritian’s DNA. No need to look far if you are craving for a roti, you can find it anywhere and while you’re at it, why not taste its softer, dhal-based cousin: the dhal puri ? Legend has it that you’re a true Mauritian once you’ve eaten dhal puri standing up on the street and haven’t gotten your fingers dirty. Up for a test?