Saturday, July 3, 2010

'an obscure country off the coast of south africa'

(mid june. number 4.)

from our guest cook, Asher Woodworth:

Mauritius is a small (2040 km2) island nation off the east coast of Madagascar. It was colonized several times throughout its relatively short history as an island populated by humans. First came the Dutch, who abandoned it, and then the French. Finally the British took control and ruled until the island's independence in 1968. The various colonial powers that ruled over the island brought with them slaves, or indentured workers from different occupied territories. So-called "Coolies" were brought from India as indentured workers, slaves from Africa were imported at various points, and a large number of Chinese workers were brought to the island as well. The result, many years later, is an island culture that is incredibly rich, diverse and tolerant. Ethnically, the majority of the estimated 1,300,00 people are Indian, but there are also many people of African descent on the island, and there are also European and Chinese minorities.
The food is something of a mix of all of these cultures. There are significant Indian and European influences, but there are many things found in Mauritius that cannot be found anywhere else in the world and can't really be easily traced back to one cultural heritage in particular. Then there are also the African and Chinese dishes and influences. It is quite common for a mixture of culturally distinct foods to appear next to each other on the same plate. There are various pickles, relishes and spice combinations that are endemic to Mauritius, often preferred by the Western tongue to their Indian counterparts because of their distinctive flavor without being overwhelmingly spicy hot. We did our best to include things on this Secret Restaurant menu that represent the unique flavor of Mauritian cuisine well.