This post is about the Street food in Mauritius and about the nice people that you meet as you savour Food around the world! For months after I returned from my trip to Mauritius, there were two experiences that I thought about ever so often – one, was seeing and touching for the first time waters of the ocean that were unbelievably beautiful. The other experience was meeting people who were so very warm. On the streets and anywhere one went – the people were nice to you. If there was anywhere I would have been happy moving to forever from India, it was Mauritius.
I had walked the streets of Port Louis, Rosehill and La Caudan and enjoyed what I saw. I would watch as the locals stood by the street food stalls and savoured with relish – sometimes the dhol-puri and sometimes the samosa. Of course, I soon decided to be like a local and started to eat my lunches where I saw the most crowds at the street stalls. That’s a principle to follow, isn’t it? More crowds, tastier food?!
In Mauritius, the Dhol-puri is part of the local cuisine and not to be missed! The Dhol is yellow split peas cooked with spices. The puri is a kind of bread – wheat flour dough rolled out like the Indian roti which is stuffed with the dhol. This is served with tomato sauce and pickles.
I remember the first time we ate Dhol-puri was during our first week there, when we had hired a taxi for the weekend sight-seeing. I went to Mauritius three times that year on a work assignment – each time a great experience! Within half an hour of starting out that morning, the taxi-driver stopped at a roadside stall for his breakfast. We were invited warmly too. It was a Dhol-puri breakfast and the street vendor who served us was as warm and friendly as our taxi-driver. It was a great way to begin our day!
There is some interesting history to the origin of the Dhol-puri, which is similar to popular local cuisine in northern parts of India. The first of the Indians arrived in Mauritius in 1834 as indentured labourers to work in the sugarcane fields. The end of the 19th century saw the arrival of Chinese migrants. Mauritius was colonised by the Dutch, the French and the British and became independent in 1968. Today, most Indo-Mauritians speak Creole and Hindi, sometimes Bhojpuri and English as well as French and the Mauritian cuisine is an interesting mix of French, Chinese and Indian cultures.
You find street vendors selling cut-fruit and pickled fruit. At the bus-stand in Port Louis, there are street vendors with glass containers on two-wheelers selling fried foods. These vendors mostly cater to the locals. When you get to the Caudan waterfront, you find the sugarcane juice stall that offers several varieties of the juice – natural sugarcane, sugarcane juice with lemon and ginger, chocolate sugarcane or sugarcane juice with yoghurt and aloe vera!
The street vendor at the Caudan waterfront caters to the tourist. The sugarcane juice stall is part of street vending but this is high-end street vending – better hygiene, higher pricing. It adds vibrancy to the pedestrianised zone at the waterfront and in terms of the investment from the vendor, a semi-permanent stall costs less than a shop within the Caudan shopping centre which has duty-free shops, fashion boutiques, a casino and restaurants. It is interesting to know that the floating tourist population in Mauritius is almost equal to the resident population of the Island.
It is true that not all of us can eat street food, even if it looks attractive. It is our levels of immunity that decide if we can survive it. Whether it is the Indian streets, Mauritian streets or the streets in Thailand, Indonesia or Puerto Rico, street food stalls continue to do good business – it is the survival of the fittest for both consumers and the vendors.