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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

Ingredients:

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

Method:

  • 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

With the start of Navratri festivities, houses and surroundings have been cleaned and dusted to welcome Maa Durga into our homes and hearts. Devotees fast and pray for a 10-day duration to invoke the blessings of the divine Mother who is worshipped as a different avatar on each day. While some undertake strict fasting, consuming only fruits and water during the day, others restrict themselves to vegetarian meals and sweets. One of my staple go-to recipes during this pious period is the classic jackfruit curry, well known as carri zak among locals.

Jackfruit is a large tough skinned vegetable that is readily available in many backyards but if you have trouble locating the plant next door, you will find it easier to get skinned and sliced jackfruit in strategic bazaar/market locations or even supermarkets these days. If you have to deal with a whole fresh fruit right off the tree, the recipe below starts off with some important tips to do away with the sticky sap. The fleshy, meat-like texture of jackfruit can then be added to simple curries as well as more elaborate dishes like biryani or pulao.

JACKFRUIT CURRY/ CARRI ZAK

Ingredients:

1 large unripe jackfruit

2 large potatoes, peeled

1 large brown onion, sliced

1 1/2 teaspoon turmeric/ safran

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 1/2 teaspoon kitchen salt

1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste

3 large tomatoes, chopped

Fresh curry leaves/ fey carri poulet

Fresh coriander leaves

Method:

  • Raw jackfruit gives off a thick and sticky whitish secretion that makes it difficult to cut and clean up.

  • It is important to prepare the work surface by covering it with sheets of newspaper to prevent stains.

  • Keep vegetable oil ready in a small container. Grease the blade of sharp knife with oil before cutting.

  • Grease both of your palms well with oil before starting to cut through the thick skin of raw jackfruit.

  • Cut the fruit into 2-inch slices and remove the skin. Next remove the thick central part of each slice.

  • Remove any large seeds, chop each piece into chunks. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent browning.

  • Blanch the chopped jackfruit in a large pan of boiling water for about 10 to 15 minutes till it softens.

  • Drain well and set aside. Cut potatoes into quarters and boil them till soft but still holding its shape.

  • In a frying pan, fry onions until translucent. Add the spices, salt and ginger-garlic paste and stir fry.

  • Cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add chopped tomatoes and 1/2 cup water, cook it for 5 minutes.

  • Add blanched jackfruit and boiled potatoes to sauce and cover pan. Simmer over medium low heat.

  • After 15 minutes, remove curry from heat and sprinkle with chopped cilantro leaves before serving.

Zak dan Masala

Curried gato pima or cari bari is often part of the menu for Indian weddings or prayers as part of the traditional 7caris. The fritters are cooked in a gravy thickened with split pea paste and flavored with cumin and turmeric. Typically served with lighter sides like rougaille and steamed vegetables such as pumpkin or chayote/chouchou to offset the pungent mix of spices, the dish can be enjoyed with hot puris and plain steamed rice alike. Though the long list of ingredients may look daunting at first sight, it is by far one of the best vegetarian dishes you need to be able to make on your own. The recipe is from my mom who must have got it while giving a helping hand to prepare food for wedding feasts. I have seen recipes of cari bari with fried aubergines but I have yet to give it a try, so let me know if you do.

CARI BARI

Ingredients:

1 batch homemade gato pima

1/2 cup gato pima paste, uncooked

1 1/2 tablespoons cumin seeds

5 whole black peppercorns

1 small onion, chopped

5 garlic cloves, chopped

1 cm fresh ginger, chopped

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 medium red onion, sliced

2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves

cari poulé leaves/ curry leaves

1 small green chili, chopped

1 tablespoon turmeric powder

1 tablespoon fresh tamarind

1 small bunch coriander leaves

Salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

  • Prepare gato pima as per recipe instruction. Remember to set 1/2 cup uncooked gato pima paste aside.

  • The recipe should yield about 20-25 large gato pima. Drain well to remove any excess oil and set aside.

  • Next, start by preparing the spices for the curry. Dry roast the cumin seeds in a small pan till aromatic.

  • Grind them along with the peppercorns on a roche carri or in an electric grinder to get a fine powder.

  • Transfer powdered spices to a small bowl, next process the chopped onion, garlic and ginger together.

  • In a large, heavy-based sauce pan, heat oil and sauté the sliced onion until it turns slightly translucent.

  • Add the thyme leaves, cari poulé/curry leaves, green chili and sauté for another minute until fragrant.

  • Stir in turmeric along with 1 cup water, bring to the boil. Combine fresh tamarind with 1/2 cup water.

  • Discard tamarind seeds, add the pulp to the curry mixture. Then add the uncooked gato pima paste.

  • Cover and simmer for 2-3 minutes until it thickens slightly. Drop the fried reserved gato pima into it.

  • Season curry with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for another 1-2 minutes before turning the gas off.

  • Garnish with freshly chopped coriander leaves and serve it with plain rice or farata. Makes 8 servings.

Cari Bari

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