Across Europe and North America, the rise in popularity of street food has been stratospheric, with food trucks, markets and pop-up restaurants appearing on the hippest corners of every major city.
Tapping into the new Western appetite for a different kind of global fast food, these outlets take great inspiration from the long-standing tradition of street food in Asia and Africa, where the concept of instant nourishment is centuries old.
In fact, here in Mauritius we boast a remarkable variety of street food, due to our unique blend of Indian, African, Chinese, French and British influences.But a certain dish has long been at the top of our list…
Dhal puri – what’s that?
It’s known as the national street food of Mauritius, but what exactly is dhal puri? This pancake-style flatbread of Bihari origin comes stuffed with cooked yellow split peas which have been blended and seasoned with turmeric and cumin – a savoury treat so simple and convenient, it’s the most popular on-the-go snack in Mauritius by far.
How do you serve it?
You’ll find dhal puri on almost every street corner, always served in pairs, and rolled up with bean curry, atchar (a type of South Asian pickle) and various chutneys – or sometimes with a ladleful of Rougaille Mauricien; a spicy tomato-based sauce made with spring onions, garlic, pepper and ginger. You can even eat it sweet, using the dhal puri to mop up luscious mouthfuls of kheer: a rich and creamy rice pudding topped with almonds, sultanas, pistachios and cardamom seeds.
Finding the best dhal puri street stalls
Dhal puri is a true Mauritian tradition, so don’t miss a chance to try it for yourself. Just look for the street stalls with the longest queues – it’s the most reliable way to spot an authentic, high quality vendor. Look for the way it’s being prepared too. Some stalls will have several people involved in the cooking process.
To produce a high volume of dhal puris in as short a time as possible, the process needs to run like a military operation, so you’ll often see different people handling different tasks: someone to roll out the dough balls into paper-thin discs, another to heat them over the tawa or griddle, and another to dish up the fillings, ready to roll up and serve. Best of all, you get to see exactly what you’re about to eat being freshly prepared before your eyes.
It’s a great value, unpretentious and mouthwateringly delicious Mauritian experience.
Photos: Food and the Fabulous
This post is also available in: French