Mauritian gastronomy entices Chennai

Recently Chennai had a treat to offer to the 100 special invitees from the tourism fraternity and the media in the form of the unique gastronomical offerings of Mauritius.

Hosted by the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA) at the Le Royal Meridien, different types of Mauritian delicacies were served to the guests such as chicken soup, Mauritian style chicken Biryani (spelt briani the Mauritian way), roasted potato, prawn curry, Poudine Du Pain, etc.

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The Food Festival showcased Creole cuisine, depicting the special identity and cultural importance of the country. MTPA spokesmen explained how Mauritian gastronomy has emerged from transforming traditional techniques from Europe, India, China, Arab and neighbouring African shores. Special island ingredients were added to recipes brought by immigrants. “The result is a cuisine that is highly creative and varied,” said Vivek Anand, Country Manager, MTPA India.

As he added that “one of the best ways to experience the pleasure and flavours of this unique cuisine is to visit a typical ‘table d’hôte’ or a local, specialised restaurants and enjoy the dholl purri (wheat pancakes stuffed with dholl) and served with curry and tomato sauce, faratas (paranthas), gateaux piments (chilli bites), samosas or have pain maison (a typical local bread) stuffed with pickles, it was hardly possible to wait to taste the food.

A promotional video showcased the various breath-taking tourism features of the island. “Your visiting card is going to take you to Mauritius,” said Anuj Singhal, MTPA Manager. There was a lucky winner.

And finally the food was served. The welcome drink I chose — a watermelon Mojito — a pulpy extract of watermelon, mint, lime juice and sugar — lacked the necessary punch as the famous Mauritian rum was missing. To a tippler’s query on the missing ingredient, Singhal replied, “Unfortunately, we could not import it.”

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A prawn cocktail was served for a starter; roasted to perfection, covered in a rich cheese sauce with herbs for topping and olive oil for a dip, this enticing appetiser outdid the tuna salad. The Mauritian briani looked tanned and less tempting, as I was comparing it to the dum biryani I’m used to… But the briani was delectable with the flavour of pepper complementing the garam masala. Between lamb rougaille and prawn cari (curry), both cooked in tomato sauce, rougaille seemed more palatable. Executive Chef Swapan Kumar Baidya said that for this annual event they “were trained by a Mauritian chef who in turn learnt Indian recipes from us.”

The sautéed shredded beef, bell peppers and bamboo shoot looked appetising enough. But the overcooked meat overshadowed the bell peppers and bamboo flavour.

While the perfectly browned roasted potatoes, tossed with fresh coriander and other spices, got a ten on ten, the okra with grain mustard and vinegar sauce was a surprise package. Ladies finger in a unique avatar in this piquant dish exhibited its versatility. Sautéed turnips flavoured with cinnamon, clove and lime were divine.

For a dessert lover the Mauritian Food Festival was a veritable treat. Napolitaine (Mauritian biscuits), tarts and caramel custard were on offer but the vanilla tart, strawberry mousse and some chocolate truffle cake appeared more enticing. The tart had a soft crust, and along with the vanilla cream, melted in the mouth.

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