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Envi ene bon ti salade melanz? While the average Mauritian is not a huge fruit eater, he/she will hardly ever say no to a freshly prepared fruit salad topped with tamarind sauce and disel pima/ chili salt. A colourful meli-melo of tropical fruits including mangoes and pineapple, our traditional fruit salad is not a homemade entity but derives its popularity from the road side sellers who usually extend their fares to markets and beaches on Sundays and holidays.
It will not be an uncommon sight if you come across one today on our crowded public beaches, which are always so on the eve and the day of a public holiday. And as we are celebrating our Independence Day today, there is, I’m sure, no better occasion to do a post on something we can proudly call as our ‘national’ salad. As the official celebrations unfold this afternoon in Champ de Mars in the attendance of eminent personalities, many will undoubtedly gather in more informal surroundings with the same feeling of being fier d’etre mauricien/ proud to be a Mauritian.
MAURITIAN FRUIT SALAD
2 semi ripe mangoes
1 medium pineapple
1 small cucumber
10 jamalacs/ love apples
1 carambole/ star fruit
2-3 dried red chilies
1 teaspoon kitchen salt
3 tablespoons tamarind
1 tablespoon brown sugar
- Peel mangoes, pineapple and cucumber. Cut each fruit into bite size pieces or chop into thick slices.
- Cut the jamalacs into halves and slice the carambole thinly. Place all chopped fruit in a large bowl.
- Crush the dried chilies and salt together in a grinder or in a mortar until it turns into a fine powder.
- Remove any seeds from the tamarind and soak the pulp in 2 tablespoons warm water for 5 minutes.
- Combine the tamarind pulp with 1 tablespoon of chili powder. Add more water and grind together.
- It should form a sauce of slow dripping consistency. Toss this dressing over the bowl of fruit salad.
- Mix till well combined and leave to stand at room temperature for at least one hour before serving.
- Top with extra tamarind and serve in plastic cups along with extra salt and chili powder. Serves 4.
Mauritian Fruit Salad
Today we commemorate the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Mauritius after 182 long years of this horribly inhuman practice introduced under colonial rule of the Dutch, followed by the French and the British. Slaves, mainly of African descent, were brought to Mauritius to work in fields and construction sites where heavy manual labour was sought. In spite of its official abolition by the British government in 1807, it was not until 1835 that the shoddy business of human trade and exploitation was abandoned in favour of recruitment of indentured labourers from India. The post abolition period was also a time of considerable struggle for those given freedom but no support or resources to start life afresh and consequently fell back into poverty and deprivation.
On this special day many chose to visit the Le Morne Slave Route which traces the footsteps of our ancestors back in time and helps us better understand their plight as maroons as they fled from their merciless master to find refuge in the wilderness of Le Morne Brabant. They were then confined to subsist on meager reserves at the cost of freedom and dignity. In the memory of all those who fought and died to make their voices heard, I dedicate this blog post and the following recipe, riz frit poisson salé/ fried rice with salted fish, a local delicacy you can find in tuck shops and roadside snacks and probably derived from Creole cuisine, fashioned by slave descendants who went on to build and empower the generations of slave-free population who enjoy a far better life than their forefathers ever did.
RIZ FRIT POISSON SALE – FRIED RICE WITH SALTED FISH
80g salted fish/ snoek
150g boneless chicken
100g corn kernels
100g carrots, diced
1 small onion, diced
100g peppers, diced
150g basmati rice, soaked
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon ginger paste
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 small bunch spring onion
- Soak rice in cold water for 15 minutes, drain and cook in a pan of boiling water until firm but not mushy.
- Soak salted fish in water to wash away most of the salt. Place in another pan of water and bring to the boil.
- Cook the fish for about 8-10 minutes until softened. Drain well and remove fish bones. Flake fish coarsely.
- If using precooked salted fish, remove from packaging and use directly without prior boiling and frying it.
- In a frying pan, heat 1 teaspoon oil and add the ginger paste. Roast lightly until fragrant then add the fish.
- Dice the chicken into bite-size pieces and season with salt and pepper. Leave it to marinate for 15 minutes.
- While chicken marinates, prepare vegetables by dicing the carrots, onion and assorted bell peppers finely.
- Beat eggs lightly and fry as for an omelette, cut it into strips and set aside. Now cook chicken in same pan.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a wok or a deep heavy based pan. Add the cooked rice, sauté for a minute or two.
- Stir in chicken, salted fish, carrot, onion, corn kernels, peppers and eggs. Add the dark soy and fish sauce.
- Stir fry for about 5-7 minutes, stirring at regular intervals, to prevent rice sticking at the bottom of the pan.
- Cover pan for 2 minutes, then sprinkle with chopped spring onions and serve immediately. For 4 persons.
Fried Rice with Salted Fish
This well loved restaurant dish has its origins in Chinese cuisine and is now an integral part of our Sino-Mauritian heritage. Chicken chop suey or chop soy is the staple offering on the menu of any plush, 5-star restaurant or as one of the bestselling street food in any local snack where it is served stuffed in warm demi baguettes or as topping over a bowl of boiled noodles or basmati rice. There probably exist as many recipes for chop suey as there are eateries serving it all over Mauritius and then there are carefully guarded family recipes handed over generations but you will be surprised [and probably happy!] to know that you can make this quick dish from no recipe at all. To add to the beauty of it, you can simply throw in any vegetable you have on hand and it will still turn out as awesome burst of colours and flavors, a true feast for your eyes and taste buds.
CHICKEN CHOP SUEY
100g dehydrated mushrooms
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 small onions, sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
200g chicken breasts, cubed
1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
50g canned bamboo shoots
1/4 cup sweet corn kernels
1 small red pepper, diced
1 small yellow pepper, diced
200g pak choy/ brède tom pouce
1 small bunch spring onion
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon corn flour
4 tablespoons cold water
- Cut off the stems of the dehydrated mushrooms and soak them in hot water for about 30 minutes.
- In a large frying pan or wok, heat 1 tablespoon oil and fry the onion slices until they are translucent.
- Add the garlic and chicken pieces and cook for about 10 minutes till chicken is done. Set this aside.
- Add carrot, corn and bamboo shoots to frying pan along with 1/2 cup water. Cook it for 5 minutes.
- Add chicken and diced peppers and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring the mixture once or twice.
- Combine oyster sauce, dark soy sauce and water in a small bowl and dissolve the corn flour into it.
- Add the pak choy and spring onions to the chicken, cook for one minute until the leaves are wilted.
- Finally add the sauce preparation and let cook for another 1-2 minutes until the sauce is thickened.
- If it is too thick, add some water to reach desired consistency. Serve chop suey warm with baguette.
Chicken Chop Suey