One of the best ways to understand the diverse history of Mauritius is by eating the food. People have only lived on the island for about 400 years, but many different groups have brought their own cooking styles, flavors and ingredients. With a mix of French, British, Indian, Chinese, and East African cooking, you can eat your way through Mauritian history!
The Dutch were the first to settle Mauritius in the 17th century, but they left pretty quickly and didn’t really influence Mauritian cuisine.
Next came the French in the 18th century, along with workers from China to help them build cities. These workers introduced the island to Chinese dishes like fried rice and sticky cakes called Nian Gao. Over time, these foods mixed with the traditional French dishes eaten by the settlers, creating unique new recipes.
In the 19th century, the British captured the island. During the early years of British rule, slavery was still legal and African slaves started to join the population of Mauritius. These slaves brought their own flavors, too. When slavery was abolished in 1834, the British began recruiting indentured laborers from India to replace the slaves. Hundreds of thousands of Indian people came to the island, bringing with them dishes like curries, roti, and samosas.
In addition to a diverse history, Mauritian food is packed with flavors because it was located along the Spice Route. In the 16th century, the French, British, and the Dutch began to buy spices from India and Southeast Asia to sell in Europe. Located in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius was a popular spot to rest, eat, refuel, and trade. Eventually, spice plants like cinnamon and nutmeg sprung up in Mauritius, and all those flavors found their way into the food.
Mauritius is food-lovers paradise! I’ve tried food that I’ve never seen anywhere else, like Bol Renverse, which is French for “upside-down bowl.”
Bol Renverse contains meat or fish, veggies, and a fried egg on top of rice with oyster sauce. It’s served in a bowl that is flipped upside down onto your plate. When it’s time to eat, the bowl is taken off to reveal the delicious helping of food underneath. The oyster sauce is salty, sweet, and thick, with a slight fishy taste.
Mauritius is a real melting pot of global flavors – all you have to do is try the food here to understand!