Global delights for foodie travelers from Mauritius & Mozambique
Food – something we cannot avoid thinking about every day, and if we are fortunate, something we can indulge in as more than just mere fuel.
Food – something we cannot avoid thinking about every day, and if we are fortunate, something we can indulge in as more than just mere fuel. For the “foodie traveler,” delectable dishes guide their journeys as they go on their gastronomic adventures. And when one thinks of adventures, perhaps there is none more alluring than the continent of Africa.
Exotic and mysterious to most, Africa conjures up food daydreams of wonder. In the Southern Africa region, 15 countries provide exotic and sometimes even familiar dishes to satisfy the appetites of the traveler in search of food explorations.
The Southern Africa regions consists of Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Today, we will focus in on the foods of Mauritius and Mozambique.
Mauritius is an island with a million inhabitants, and its cuisine has Creole roots, as well as, Chinese and Indian influences (from former slave days), along with an influence of French foods. In other words, the food is vibrantly delightful, with curries and chilis high on the list of favorites
Street food is quite abundant in Mozambique and shows up in displays contained in glass boxes everywhere – on roadside tables, attached to bicycles and motorbikes, at market stalls, and on the beach. Visitors can stroll about, enjoying Mauritian foods, all the while hoping they are walking off some of those extra holiday calories. A favorite is called gajak – deep fried morsels of gateau aubergine (eggplant fritters), manioc goujons (cassava chips), and gateau patat (potato fritters). This all goes very well with mine frites (fried noodles). Noodles are fried with soy sauce and finished with a sprinkling of green onions and chili – can you feel the Chinese influence? The dim sum on offer is also some of the best around the world.
From its Indian influences, comes paratha – a buttery flat bread eaten with curry. Another favorite Indian flat bread is called roti chaud (hot roti) and is also served with curries, as well as chutneys and pickles. Another Indian favorite is briani (briyani), a very spicy rice with lamb, chicken, or lentils and often served with yogurt. Rougaille is a popular Creole dish made with meat or fish, tomatoes, garlic, onion, and thyme, resembling a stew. Offset with a refreshing Mauritian delicacy known as Millionaire’s Salad, it is a wonderful blend of hearty and spicy meets light and cool. Millionaire’s salad is made from fresh hearts of palm that are sliced. Sometimes the sliced hearts of palm are cooked with smoked marlin and/or a sauce of some sort. Another wonderful cooling food element can be found in the huge variety of Mauritian chutneys, from coconut to curry and more. Another favorite Indian-inspired dish is fish vindaye usually made with fish or vegetables along with mustard, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and onion, and is often served with rice, lentils, chutneys, and pickles.
Rounding out all these savory dishes are some of the sweetest of sweets. Take mithai, an Indian-type sweet – it is intensely sugary and highly buttery. Or a step down from sweetness, but still up there on the sweet quotient, is crème brulee – there’s that French influence again. Coconut cookies, which Mauritians call cakes, are made from grated coconut and sugar, and sweet potato cakes are tasty little packets of dough made from sweet potatoes, surrounding a filling of coconut, cardamom, and sugar… but that’s not all – which is then deep fried.
As far as what to drink, there are smooth vanilla teas, alouda – a sweet pink milky beverage flavored with syrup and tapioca balls, and there is nothing like the pure flavor of coconut water served straight from a freshly-opened coconut. For the heartier drinker, there’s Mauritius’ local beer, Phoenix, and three distilleries on the island produce agricole rum made from sugar cane juice instead of molasses. Rhumerie de Chamarel in Chamarel makes award-winning double-distilled, oak-aged rum. Some of the rums are flavored with vanilla, spices, coffee, and fruits. Whatever the rum, it serves as the base for Mairitius’ favorite alcoholic beverage – petit rum punch – a mixture of rum and simple (sugar) syrup and other flavors, such as lime juice. The perfect way to end a gastronomic day on the island.
With over 1.6 million people, the capital of Mozambique, Maputo, is a large and bustling capital. Because it lies close to South Africa, the city acts as the main center for industry and business.
Farm plots are called “machambas,” and many fishermen go out in small boats or dhows either from the many small ports along Mozambique’s coastline or on the country’s rivers and lakes, continuing to fish using traditional methods. Though some commercial fishing takes place, especially for Mozambique’s key export of prawns, traditional fishing accounts for around 85% of domestic catches.
Matapa is a common sauce in this country’s cooking. The sauce is made from cassava leaves or other greens, ground peanuts or coconut, and sometimes with shrimp. The staple food for many Mozambicans is ncima, a thick porridge made from maize or corn flour. Cassava and rice are also eaten as staple carbohydrates. All of these are served with sauces of vegetables, meat, beans, or fish. Now, who could resist a delicious dish of prawns served with matapa sauce alongside a serving of ncima? Chicken is also a favorite meat, served grilled or with seasonings and spices, most popularly with piri-piri – a spicy chili sauce made with chili, of course, garlic, and lemon juice. Is your mouth watering?
To satisfy a sweet tooth, delicious fruits abound. Travelers can buy buckets full of mangoes, avocados, papayas, and coconuts at roadside stops. And don’t forget the cashew nuts! Although no longer one of the world’s largest producers of cashews, visitors can find bags of them along roadside stops as well.
And speaking of roadside snacks, travelers should be sure to try a Prego roll. This is a simple dish of steak topped with piri-piri sauce. Try it with pao, readily found in markets, these are tasty white bread rolls, from Portuguese heritage, often baked in wood-fired ovens.
A number of successful national beer brands are enjoyed by Mozambicans. Local brews (pombe) are also popular. These are made from maize, sugar cane, mangos, cassavas, and cashew fruits. Palm wine (sura) is also popular in southern areas. Tipo Tinto, is the country’s national rum, but do mix it with something, because it packs a powerful punch. Soft drinks tend to be globally recognized choices, such as Coca Cola. A comforting way to round out a day of happy eating.
The Regional Tourism Organization of Southern Africa (RETOSA) is a Southern African Development Community (SADC) institution responsible for tourism growth and development. In part, the aims of RETOSA are to increase tourist arrivals to the region through sustainable development initiatives, improved regional competitiveness, and effective destination marketing. The organization works together with Member States’ tourism ministries, tourism boards, and private sector partners. For more information about RETOSA, go to www.retosa.co.za