Smaller Default Larger

Mauritian Gastronomy

French cuisine in the island of Mauritius

Following the colonisation of Mauritius by the French in 1715, the mainstream gastronomy of the settlers was French, but slaves from Madagascar and Africa and workers from southern India consumed their own traditional staple foods, however some cross-cultural cuisine was beginning to emerge.

When Pierre Poivre was appointed Administrator of the island in 1767, he introduced cloves and nutmeg plants as well as other spices in a bid to break the Dutch monopoly on the spice trade. Most of these spices are still grown here today and are widely used. One particular type of Saffron is very popular here. It is made from the root of the plant and dried and ground to a fine powder. It is also known as Turmeric or Curcuma.

Creole food presentationMauritian cuisine is traditionally eclectic thanks its diverse history and population, but now Mauritian chefs, who have achieved international recognition, have created a "new" cuisine of Mauritius based on a fusion of styles that incorporate more international dimensions. They have adopted a fresh and adventurous approach to using exotic spices and local or imported produce. International chefs based in Mauritius, many of whom are Michelin starred, are mainly employed in luxury hotels, are also pushing the boundaries and are using imported fresh or chilled produce to create dishes outside of the norm for Mauritius. Now, gastronomes may find kangaroo, crocodile or ostrich meat from Australia, mussels from New Zealand, smoked salmon from Scotland, lobsters and crabs from Brittany combines with local delicacies like smoked marlin, fresh fish farmed in the lagoons, or locally produced duck foie gras.
The next generation of Mauritian chefs are set to continue this pioneering trend in Mauritian cuisine through the innovative training received at the Ecole Hôtelière Sir Gaëtan Duval (formerly known as the Hotel School of Mauritius), with teachers encouraging potential chefs to experiment with the local produce available including the vast array of exotic spices in order to create new tantalising recipes to excite locals and visitors alike.

Mauritian food savour

One of the earliest sources of meat on the island was a previously unknown species of bird, the dodo. Dodos were descended from a type of pigeon which had settled in Mauritius over 4 million years ago. Weighing up to 50 pounds and with no natural predators to attack them, they lost their need and ability to fly and when the Portuguese began to use Mauritius as a stopover for ships engaged in the spice trade from 1505, the dodos proved to be a convenient source of fresh meat for the sailors. Unfortunately the dodo population was decimated and further reduced when the Dutch later brought rats, monkeys and pigs to the island which ate dodo eggs from ground nests. Less than 100 years following the arrival of humans on the island, the once abundant dodo became endangered and later extinct.

In 1639, the Dutch governor Adrian Van der Stel brought deer from their colony of Batavia (now, Indonesia), hoping that they would multiply and eventually become a food source for their young colony of Mauritius. They were released at the feet of Lion Mountain in Vieux Grand Port and from there spread all over the island, although they damaged the flora, they nevertheless did feed the local population.

When the Dutch decided to leave the island in 1709, they sent their dog packs after the deer in the hope of destroying the food source that could potentially benefit other visitors to the island. Some deer however, escaped to Port North Quest (Port Louis) and this is where the French settlers landing in 1715, found that they had congregated. The domestic pigs that were also introduced to Mauritius in a similar fashion by the Dutch eventually became wild and to this day are hunted, along with deer in forested reserve areas (domains) today.