Indian Influences In Mauritius Food
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The small island nation of Mauritius is anything but small when it comes to the food it serves up. Mauritian cuisine is a bold and delicious mix of Indian, French, Creole, and Chinese flavors that were once brought to Mauritian kitchens by European colonizers. In the case of India, it was indentured laborers who were brought into the country and who brought with them their food, as Indians have done everywhere in the world.

In 1836, John Gladstone, a Liverpool merchant – incidentally, the father of the British Prime Minister William Gladstone – proposed that Indian laborers be employed to make up for a decrease in the labor force expected due to the abolition of slavery after the French Revolution. This practice established a form of de facto slavery, as impoverished Hindu peasants were bound to contracts that obligated them to work for five or seven years in exchange for housing, food, medicine, clothing, meager wages, and a free passage to the country where they were to toil. Many of them came from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Often, these workers did not even know where they were headed. In 1838, the initial consignment of bonded workers departed for Demerara, and by the time the Indian National Congress effectively worked to terminate this practice in 1919, 1.5 million had departed India, and at the most, only one-third had returned to India. From 1843, indentured labor transported Indians and their cuisine to Mauritius, British Guyana, Trinidad, and Jamaica in 1845, South Africa and Fiji in the 1870s. All these nations now show a powerful Indian influence in their culinary customs. And there are a lot of Indian influences in the patois (local dialect) of the regions as well, especially Bhojpuri.

The Indian influence on Mauritian cuisine, therefore, is about two centuries old now. And it is an influence that sits seamlessly with the other influences the country demonstrates. If you have ever been to the country, you would know that naans and parathas and biryanis sit happily alongside Creole seafood curries, dim sum, French coq au vin, and British bacon and eggs. The country was colonized by the Dutch, French, and British over four centuries, which explains this culinary diversity. Now, it is the Indo-Mauritians who form the majority of the population, at almost 75%. Which explains why dholl puri (from Bihari dal puri) is everywhere and could simply be called the national dish of Mauritius. Baijas—derived from the bhajias—are a ubiquitous snack in the country, and there are deep-fried "cakes" of sweet potato, aubergine, and cassava everywhere. Even French jus in various dishes in the country comes with a generous dose of garam masala. The names have also undergone changes that reflect the melting pot that is Mauritius. Falooda has become alouda; samosas are samoussas/sambusas; parathas are faratas; coriander chutney is satinicotmili – kothamalli is coriander in Telugu, another region from where indentured laborers went to Mauritius; and gateau piment, deceptively like a meduvada served with a chutney that you would likely find anywhere in India. Just like you would find achards – modification of achaar – everywhere in Mauritius. This is where you find some more variety: cabbage, carrots, French beans, and chillies cooked, still keeping their crunch, and mixed with turmeric, mustard, garlic, chillies, and vegetable oil.

It is not just the Indian influences that mark Mauritian cuisine. It’s the symphonic way in which Indian ingredients and techniques have also blended into the other cuisines that have found a home in Mauritius. A melting pot in every sense of the word.

Here is a recipe for the ‘national dish’ of Mauritius via Bihar – dholl puri that we love by Darlene. 


1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 cup of yellow split peas soaked overnight

4 cups of flour

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 to 1 3/4 cups water


vegetable oil 


    The day before you make this recipe, soak the yellow peas in water overnight.

    Toast the cumin seeds in a dry frying pan and crush with a mortar and pestle.

    Drain and rinse the peas, and boil in fresh water until just tender.

    Drain well and blend with the cumin in a blender or food processor; you are looking for a fluffy powder. Add salt to taste.

    Place the flour, turmeric, and 2 pinches of salt into a large bowl and mix well. Add water a little at a time and mix until a smooth dough is formed.

    Knead for about 5 minutes, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside for 20-30 minutes.

    Form the dough into balls about the size of a golf ball and make an indent in the center of each ball. Stuff with about a tablespoon of the yellow pea mixture, and seal the dough around the filling. Roll the balls out on a floured surface into very thin rounds.

    Brush a frying pan with oil and cook each dholl puri over high heat for about 2 minutes on each side. Before flipping and cooking the other side, brush with some more oil.

    Serve two at a time, warm, with the lima bean curry and coriander chutney.