Street food for Thought...
“Ene bon dipain, dibeurre, gato-pima ek so dité chaud.” (Bread, butter and gateau-piment with a hot cup of tea) are the words uttered out of the mouth of any disciple of the pure Mauritian cuisine. I would definitely tell anyone on this planet that you haven’t grasped the real Mauritian culture if you haven’t eaten our famous street food and “gadjacks” (similar to appetizers). I can easily resist French fries at McDonald’s or a delicious chocolate treat or the pleasant smell of Italian pizza but it is the walk down streets that really challenges my appetite. I must admit that hot bhajjas are tortures to my brain. As you must have deduced by now, I am 100% made in Moris and a huge fan of Mauritian street food. Let’s be honest! Where else in the world will you find people of Chinese, Indian, Muslim and African origin living together and enjoying the yummy Creole cuisine almost everyday. Well, it happens only in Mauritius.
Our amazing easy-to-make finger foods can be savoured at any time of the day either dipped in hot chilli sauce or eaten with buttered bread. However, our street foods lack a little bit of the balanced nutrition. They do contain a high amount of fat in the form of oil but the majority of calories come from the higher proportion of carbohydrates in them. Nevertheless you don’t have to panic. I have used my inspiration to find easy yet healthy tips to make our street foods way much better for the stomach and colon. You just need the right ingredients and your tea time will be as enjoyable as it used to be.
The favourite on-the-go snack of most Mauritians is a roti/dhall-puri which is basically a flat bread like a tortilla rolled into a wrap and filled with lima beans curry (gros-pois) and a hot tomato sauce (Rougaille). The ultimate ingredient lacking to make it healthy is a nice salad. I usually served mine with a tomato salad and green chillies or a classic cucumber/carrot salad. Limit your consumption to a max of 2 rotis only. I wouldn’t mind paying extra money (+ Rs.3-4) to eat a healthy on-the-go lunch. I think it could be a nice initiative to start selling some salad along a street food.
1. 2. Kebab:
As you already know it, a kebab is a famous Middle Eastern dish of pieces of chicken/meat roasted or grilled on a skewer and served with bread and cabbage salad. Portrayed like that, kebabs do look very healthy. However, what makes them high on the calorie counter is the portion size and the additional condiments like mayonnaise, ketchup and cheese. I made my own version of a healthy kebab by using 100g whole-wheat bread and cooking my own kebab skewers at home. You can spread a little bit of cream cheese on your bread for extra flavour. Believe me if you are expecting guests at your place, flaunt with this recipe dressed on a beautiful plate with lemon slices.
These round fritters, made of slit peas, green chillies and lots of herbs, are among the pure essence of Mauritian cuisine. They can be classified as healthy as they are vegetarian and full of spices which provide your body with a flux of antioxidants. If served with a good tomato salad and cooked in a little oil, there is no reason to run away from it.
1. 4. Samoussa:
These triangular delicacies are famous during end of year parties and are also very easy to make. I prefer baking mine at 200°C for about 15-20 mins until crispy rather than deep-frying in oil. Believe me; they will still be very tasty when served with a hot red chilli sauce. Always remember portion size and do keep your consumption to not more than 4 samoussas.
1 5. Gadjacks (bhajjas/gateau lichou):
Gadjacks are hot deep-fried pleasures served by bicycle vendors at every corner in Mauritius. They are made of strips of vegetables (cabbage, onion, aubergine, potato, cassava) battered in chickpea flour with added herbs and chillies. It is true that they should be fried to obtain that yummy taste. So, I usually serve them on fresh lettuce leaves to eat like a taco or a sang choy bow for the healthy touch.
Just like you have milkshake in New-York, Lassi in India, Halo-Halo in Phillipines and bubble tea in Taiwan, Mauritius has a cold Alouda. It is a sweet cold drink made with milk, basil seeds, agar-agar jelly and flavoured with vanilla or strawberry. Even though it can be a good dairy product rich in calcium, Alouda’s high sugar content is what put it on the list of high-calorie products. I made a lighter version of Alouda by using semi-skimmed milk and honey instead of sugar. If you don’t like honey, try using ½ less sugar than you will usually add to your drink. No sugar is even better. Basil seeds (toukmaria) are the ingredients that make Alouda so unique. Good news is that these basil seeds are excellent for digestion (avoid constipation) and have an effective cooling effect on a hot summer day. They can equally curb your appetite which makes you less hungry for the following hours.
This speciality made by our Muslim sisters and brothers is loved by the locals. However, the huge amount of rice and highly fatty meat consumed in this dish make it not very appealing to our waistline. Portion size is key here as well as the right condiments. When eating my briani, I cleverly measure 100g of rice (about a small cup) and always accompany it with hot tomato chutney and a fresh cucumber and mint Raita (a seasoned yogurt dressing). When fighting bad bacteria and evil cholesterol, you should make sure to have enough of the “good” bacteria inside of you. While some people carry their probiotics pills everywhere, I prefer eating my yogurt to prepare my colon for the rush of bad cholesterol.
This nourishing and rich soup made with lentils and meat can be very bad for your health when it is being cooked with a huge amount of oil and simmered with greasy parts of meat (including the skin). While preparing your Haleem, try cooking with 1-2 tablespoons of oil and choose fresh meat (free from their skin). I usually serve mine with a spicy pickled salad and some fresh slices of lemon. To complete my meal, I add some carbs in the form of a small slice of whole-wheat bread. Bon Appetit!
I must admit that Boulettes (our Chinese dumplings) remain the healthiest street food in our country. Always remember to limit your consumption not to more than 10 boulettes (which is already huge for me).
I was really proud writing this article as it made me realise why I love my country so much. Walking on the streets on a sunny beach, taking pictures for the blog and hearing these loud vendors shouting, made me discover once again the essence of the island as well as its rich culinary influences.