You cnt seriously call yourself a Mauritian if you’ve never had gato pima. Also called gateau piment or gato dhall, these deep fried balls of ground split peas are among the bestsellers at any food stall on the streets of towns and villages. If you are not picky about hygiene and calories, gato pima is the food to curb your hunger even if you have only Rs10 at hand.

The Quatre Bornes market place has the highest rated gato pima I know of but I fondly remember the fritters from my local street vendor – a frail old man with no hair or teeth, known to all as Baba. Baba always had a variety of deep fried savouries in his wooden lamalle but his 4 pou Rs1 marble sized gato pima were often among the first to be sold out.

I was quite amused to find that premixed frozen versions of the fritters are now sold in supermarkets though I’m yet to see someone actually buying those. *smirk*

GATO PIMA – SPLIT PEA FRITTERS 

Ingredients:

250g yellow split peas/ dholl petit pois

2 large red onions, diced

1 bunch fresh coriander leaves, chopped

1 bunch spring onions, chopped

3 green chillies, finely chopped

3 dried red chilies, finely chopped

1 tsp aniseed, lightly roasted

2 tsp salt

Method:

  • Use yellow split peas [dholl petit pois] and not dholl gramme. The two look alike so have a good look at the label before you rip open the packet. And throw it away if it happens to have insects crawling out :S
  • Remove impurities/stones and place in a large bowl.
  • Fill bowl with water till split peas are completely soaked.
  • Allow to stand for at least 4 hours. No need to leave overnight.

  • Drain the split peas completely so that they are almost dry.
  • Grind into a fine paste but do not make it smooth.
  • The texture of the paste is important for the quality and look of your fritters. Extra water or coarsely processed will yield poor results.
  • Add onions, chillies, coriander, spring onions, aniseeds and salt to paste. Mix by hand till well combined. 

  • In a deep heavy based pan or kadai, heat oil over medium heat. You may require around 2 cups for frying.
  • Make small loose balls out of the dough and gently drop in hot oil.

  • Deep fry until fritters are golden brown in colour. 
  • Drain well between sheets of absorbent paper.
  • Serve hot with fresh baguette and chilli sauce.
  • Freeze left over dough in airtight container for later use.

One interesting thing about gato pima is that it can be converted into a number of easy side dishes. Cook it with mashed tomatoes, garlic and fine herbs and you have a tasty rougaille. Halve your gato pimas and toss them with any salad. Or simply make a light curry out of them.

Curried gato pima or cari bari is often part of the menu for indian weddings or prayers as part of the traditional 7caris. Add the fritters to a gravy thickened with 1/2 cup of uncooked split pea paste [as above] and flavoured with 1 tsp tumeric. Simmer for 2-3 minutes and serve hot with poori.

I’ll end with this lovely song from the movie Karthik Calling Karthik I watched a couple of days back.

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