It’s a fact: Mauritian people like spicy food! For a 100% Mauritian culinary experience, you need to get ten of the spices that are the most used in local dishes.
Turmeric is much like saffron, especially in the colour and smell. With a piquant yet discreet taste, this spice is found in the traditional curry powder mix. You can season your poultry, lamb, fish, vegetable or rice dishes with turmeric for an extra Mauritian touch.
Mauritian name: cumin
The use of coriander dates back to 7000 BC. The leaves can be sprinkled on various dishes, such as seafood salads. The seeds are ground and used in typically Mauritian specialities such as cari (curry).
Mauritian name: cotomili
3. Curry leaves
Originally grown in India and Sri Lanka, curry trees were first planted in Mauritius by Indian labourers near their temples and houses. It is found in spice mixes like Massala. Fresh curry leaves add flavour to every Mauritian cari.
Mauritian name: caripoulé
The benefits of garlic have been more and more documented and praised lately. In Mauritius, it is usually chopped or crushed, then added to a number of dishes such as curry, rougaille (red sauce) and the traditional bouillon brèdes (a broth of edible leaves), while cooking.
Ginger’s hot and tangy flavour gives a unique taste to fish, curry sauces, broths, etc. Besides, it can be appreciated in a sweet version (crystallised ginger) or in infusion and tea, as an old home remedy.
6. Mustard seeds
A key ingredient of the famous vindaye (vindaloo) recipe, mustard seeds do not taste as strong as the mustard we commonly use as a condiment. Found in many spice mixes, they were discovered more than 3,000 years ago around the Mediterranean Sea and in Asia.
7. Star anise seeds
If you often use the famous five-spice powder, then star anise is not unknown to you. Thanks to its powerful aroma, a single seed is enough to spice up your dish. Star anise can be used in various ways: grated or infused directly into the simmering mixture.
Clove is the star ingredient of the biryani, a popular recipe in the Mauritian muslim community. It is easy to recognize this spice because of its strong flavour. It is also found in several spice mixes and spiced tea.
Like many other spices, cardamom comes from India. Because of its floral and lemony aroma, it is mostly used to season rice-based dishes. If you have a sweet tooth, you will find it in these Mauritian sweet potato and coconut cakes, called gâteaux patate.
Thyme is not a spice but a richly aromatic herb. It is abundantly used in Mauritian cuisine and is generally added, sometimes in a fresh bouquet, on top of vegetable or meat stews, such as the famous Creole rougaille.
Now that you know everything about the spices that make Mauritian food so special, go and get some at the closest market!