Inspired by Mauritian street food

Published on July 30, 2013

By Jason Horeesorun (pictured below), founder of Nottingham-based Mauritian Street Food

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Heathrow: February 5, 2013.

It’s freezing, foggy and depressing. No bother, I am about to board an aeroplane to Mauritius. The focus of my trip is to do some research for my business – Mauritian Street Food – but secondly something that Mauritius does well – a little R+R!

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Jason’s Mauritian Street Food trailer

I arrive in Mauritius 12 hours later and after a good night’s sleep I wake to mum’s cooking; the aromas of garlic and ginger assault my senses. I am greeted by a real Mauritian feast: sliced fresh pineapple with salt and chilli, gatteaux piment (chilli cakes), bajia (small chickpea fritters with coriander and spring onion) smoked marlin, Mauritian vanilla tea and, of course, freshly baked baguette. All the ingredients are from the local Quatre Bournes Market, which is my first port of call…

Quatre Bourne Market
Quatre Bournes Market, Mauritias

When I arrive I am immediately engrossed in the hustle and bustle of a busy market alive with the colour, smells and chatter of friendly local Mauritians bartering.

Fish

I wander around and buy garlic, ginger, fresh plum tomatoes, onions, thyme, chilli and crab – all these ingredients come to just under £3 – bargain! After practising my Creole with a few more market vendors I head home to cook one of my favourite recipes – bouillon crab (Mauritian-style crab soup). Like many Mauritian dishes it starts with a rougaille base (a dish that my business Mauritian Street Food serves). This is a delicious tomato-based sauce that has its roots firmly in French cuisine but has an added twist of spice from mainly ginger, chilli and coriander. This really is simple yet so delicious.

Street Food Grand Bay

The bouillon is best served with rice and a coconut chutney and is fresh, healthy and looks and a tastes very accomplished (secret – it’s so easy!). With my belly suitably full, I take a stroll to the beach where I can hear Sega (local Mauritian music) being strummed on a guitar to a large family. I grab a beer and soak up the atmosphere.

Piment confit
‘Pimet comfit’

R and R
Jason grabbed some R&R here!

The next day I have a little bit of a sore head but nothing that a dip in the sea and a fresh fruit salad cannot sort out. I get the flip flops on and start searching for my real passion – street food. I head to Flic en Flac on the west coast of Mauritius. Here I am greeted with a plethora of street food vendors selling everything from roti chaud (Mauritian wraps), dholl puri, gateaux piment (chilli cakes), samosas, carri grois pois (butter bean curry) and fruit including coconuts and pineapple to name just two!

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There are tiny carts selling one item or bigger trailers selling a variety of traditional Mauritian street food. Mauritian Street food is truly amazing – a real fusion and mixture of cuisines from Africa, India and France amongst others. The flavours are fresh and you can see the vendors making the food as they go.

Street Food Grand baie

Chilli cake street food

I opt for a roti chaud, one of my favourites and a dish I sell on my street food trailer in the UK. A fresh roti (flat bread) is made and rougaille and carri gros pois plus some extra hot chillis are wrapped and it is served hot – it’s so simple yet so delicious. I also opt for another favourite – gateaux piment – you see these everywhere in Mauritius and they are split pea chilli cakes with added spices – truly mouthwatering and unique – I can’t really compare them to anything we get in the UK.

Roti
A pile of rotis

I finish my street food feast with glace frappe – a guy with a block of ice and a motorbike shaves ice and adds flavoured juice to it – you cannot ask for more on a hot, sunny day!

This unpretentious way of eating caught my attention many years ago. I love the spirit of street food here: cheap, amazing, authentic food being served in front of you. You get what you ask for and it’s good! That’s exactly what I try to emulate with my business in the UK, to capture the spirit of street food. So I serve fresh, authentic Mauritian street food from a bright and happy trailer.

I love speaking to people about the origins of the food and keep costs down as low as possible. That’s real street food to me!

Grabbing Roti in petrol station
Grabbing a roti in a petrol station

Matt Wright
The author:

Matt lives in Leicestershire with his wife, two kids and dog. He is passionate about British pubs, slow food and home brewing. He founded Great Food Club (originally as Great Food Magazine) in 2010 after being inspired by local producers near his home town of Melton Mowbray - Britain's 'Rural Capital of Food'.