Delicious Mauritius

“Do you want me to cook Mauritian food tonight?” Maria offered. That is not the sort of offer I turn down.

Maria’s Mauritian shrimp creole

We were staying with our friends, Gary and Maria, in their home along the Tualatin River in an idyllic suburb of Portland, Oregon. Gary is one of my oldest friends from childhood. Maria, whom he met in the Northwest wine industry, hails from Kauai, where we were fortunate enough to be a part of their wedding a few years back. Her father is American, and her mother comes from Mauritius.

I’d never really thought much about Mauritius until I met Maria and her family. (Same thing with a girl I once dated from Sri Lanka, where I was even further confused by her insistence on calling it Ceylon.) Best known, perhaps, as the home of the now-extinct dodo bird, its sheer exoticness is attested to by the fact that the nearest inhabited neighbor is Madagascar. The shortest flight route from Los Angeles takes 24 hours. First visited by Arab sailors in the Middle Ages, the island was alternately colonized by the Dutch, French and English (the usual suspects) who each introduced their cultural and culinary influences, as did the proximate spheres of Africa and India.

Mauritius

The people of Mauritius are gorgeous and exotic, much like other people of that part of the world — dark skin, fine features, deep and soulful eyes. And the food reflects the depth and complexity of the people. The most obvious influence is Indian, expressed in the variety of spices (garam masala, cardamom, coriander, turmeric), chutneys, lentil dhals and floral rices. But depending on the dish, you may also detect nuances of French cuisine in a long braised meat or seafood bouillabaisse, the inescapable proximity to Africa in a taste of spicy chicken wings with peanut sauce, even the distant echo of China in a plate of noodles, shrimp har gow or pork char shui introduced by a wave of immigrants beginning in the mid-18th century.

Not one to simply accept the graciousness of a host and leave well enough alone, I asked if I could cook Mauritian food too! I would make some appetizers, I suggested. Maria, fortunately, was enthusiastic. “Mauritian appetizers aren’t my strong suit,” she said. And so I set about researching Mauritian cuisine online, Maria and I shopped, and I produced reasonably good chicken croquettes with two chutneys and a Mauritian-spiced grilled flank steak for appetizers. But the undisputed star of the evening was Maria’s shrimp creole with lentil dhal and steamed rice — so good that I went the unusual step of having seconds and eating until I was quite full.

Grilled flank steak, Mauritian-style

So good, in fact, that I captured her in the process of cooking the dish and coaxed the recipe from her. Read the recipe, watch the video, and be transported to Mauritius (via Portland). Enjoy.

*   *   *

Mautitian shrimp creole
serves 4-6

2 lbs. of shrimp with shells on if desired
1 medium onion
4 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp. ginger
4 tomatoes
1 can of tomato sauce
Oil
curry leaves
½ tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. cumin
1 tsp. curry powder
½ tsp. thyme
salt to taste

Devein the shrimp and peel if desired.  Ideally cooking them with their shells on allows for the sauce to obtain more flavor and for the juices in the shells to keep the meat more moist.  However, it will be more hands on once the meal is served.

In a food processor, pulse the onion, garlic, and ginger to form a coarse paste.  Heat a large pan and a add oil.  Sauté the onion mixture for a few minutes until it starts to brown.  Also pulse the tomatoes in the food processor.  Add them to the pan along with the tomato sauce.  Add all of the spices along with the salt and allow to simmer for 15 minutes so the flavors can meld together.

Add in the shrimp and sauté for 5-7 minutes until they turn pink.  Let the pot sit for 10 minutes and then serve with rice.

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9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lisa
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 01:32:07

    Where’s the grilled flank steak recipe?

    Reply

  2. Mom
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 03:44:23

    Why Lis? Like you’re going to eat it.
    How fascinating that Maria’s mother is Mauritian, I had assumed she was Polynesian because she lived in Hawaii. I met Maria when she was maybe 25 and found her to be one of the most charming, poised and mature young women I had ever met. I no doubt told Gary to grab her and run which he eventually did, thank heaven. I can’t wait to try this recipe.

    Reply

  3. putneyfarm
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 15:38:17

    This looks great…never thought of food from Mauritius…all the dishes sound lovely..

    Reply

  4. Michelle
    Aug 22, 2012 @ 02:48:48

    You have the best friends!

    Reply

  5. holm2
    Aug 24, 2012 @ 17:58:42

    Thank you for the great post. I have to admit I was a bit nervous to cook for you, but making it a team effort made it very enjoyable. We loved having you guys stay here! Please thank your mom for the sweet comments.

    Reply

  6. holm2
    Aug 24, 2012 @ 17:59:37

    That last comment was from Maria Blackmer. Not quite sure why it posted as my friend’s blog.

    Reply

  7. Trackback: The Best Taco in Jalisco | skinny girls & mayonnaise

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