On The Spice Route, Mauritius

On The Spice Route, Mauritius

Mauritian cooking is enriched by the heritage of the three continents that have marked its history. On the local plate, Africa, Asia and Europe all come together to create rich, authentic, spicy dishes that delight both locals and visitors. Through this unusual melting pot, a single feature stands out in the local cooking: Mauritian food is all about spices.

Historically, Mauritius was part of the Spice Route connecting Europe and Asia during the colonial era. Under the French colonies, Administrator Pierre Poivre introduced the cultivation of various spices on the island. This might explain partly the omnipresence of strong spice in local cooking. At the time, spices were sold whole, by weight, out of rustic jute bags.

Near the Port Louis market, off the beaten path, a few spice wholesellers still provide spices in bulk to passers-by. Among the more common sacks of grain and beans, you may stumble upon spices with unfamiliar names, such as Elaiti for green cardamom, Ti lani for anise, or Tukmaria for Basil Seeds, among others.

Today, Mauritians tend to opt for the convenience of grocery stores for their stock of spices. These are now found whole, crushed or ground and pre-packaged in any supermarkets. Still, many locals today grow a small herb and spice garden at home to complement their dishes with the freshest ingredients.