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.
[we started with]
• Pickled vegetable salad
Pickled mango, carrots, cauliflower, green beans and cabbage with light mustard seed and turmeric sauté. Served tart and cold.
Made with lentils in the style of 'dhal puries,' but we used pink lentils and a whole wheat dough. Somewhere between 'paratha' and a purie.
• Sagzi appetizer
Spinach curry with fresh cheese fried in ghee.
• Onion fritters
Onion leaves fried in spiced garbanzo bean flower with fresh cilantro.
Each guest was served fruit, a ripe lychee, to cleanse the palette.
Chutneys and sauces
• Mango Chutney - Fresh mango, caramelized and curried, smoky and sweet.
• Hari Chutney - Literally "Green Chutney" aromatic mint and lime blended with green chillis.
• Pickled Mango Coconut Tartar sauce - Made with coconut oil mayonnaise and pickled mango for a unique blend of flavors.
• Green Chili Pickled Green Mango - The firmness of the pickled mango serves as medium for the spice.
• Tamarind Water - A diluted solution of tamarind paste and spices still delivers the signature pungent punch.
• Yogurt Date Chutney - Decadently sweet and creamy, could even be a dessert on its own.
• Fragrant jasmine rice
With caramelized golden raisons and almond slivers browned in ghee. slow cooked with cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, and orange peels.
• Black lentils
Simple but delicious curried lentil dish, slow cooked for 5 hours.
• Cauliflower curry
With yukon gold potatoes, carrots, and peas, curried in a special mauritian masala.
• Toasted, sweetened chickpea flour cookies with ghee (Indian)
• Warm polenta pudding (apparently Mauritian)
with dates, coconut, and cashews
• Sesame doughnuts fried in peanut oil (actually Mauritian)
• Cardamom cold-cream
• Shelled pistachios
(from Jenny Mosbacher)
Last Remains of the Dodo
A strong Western influence of Jim Beam rye whiskey toned with the indigenous tropical flavors of tamarind, palm sugar simple syrup, and lime for a take on a whiskey sour bent on your extinction.
A nod to the Dutch cultivation of sugarcane on Mauritius; a light, summery mix of Bacardi Silver, muddled sugar and lime, topped with soda.