I’m passionate about learning new cuisines and trying new foods. Here in Cape Town I am being exposed to entirely new cultures and cuisines. I’m seeing things like Mauritian cuisine for the first time. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find any vegan Mauritian food, but as it happens the Mauritian vegan blogger Teenuja of Veganlovlie is contributing a recipe on Vegan Miam for one of her favorite Mauritian curries.
The cuisine of Mauritius draws flavors and influence from Chinese, East African (Creole), French and Indian cuisines. Teenuja’s captivating curry with whole yellow peas and plantains only makes me more curious about the cuisine of this small island nation.
Hey everybody, I am so thrilled to be featured on Rika’s + Doni’s stunning website today! I have been looking forward to this moment with much enthusiasm and today I am happy to be talking a little about Mauritian food and one of my own personal favourite curry dish.
Very often, I get asked what type of food and cuisine we have in Mauritius. Before we dive into the food culture, just a little geography if you are unfamiliar with Mauritius. It is a tiny island in the Indian Ocean and is a very prized holiday destination by many for its white sandy beaches and calm lagoons. With a strong French influence, the main languages spoken are Mauritian Creole (a French dialect) and French although, English is the official language. Most Mauritians speak all three languages.
Being born and having lived in Mauritius until I was nineteen, I never thought there was anything special to Mauritian food until I left the island for studies abroad. It was then that I truly realised the fascinating fusion of Chinese, East African (Creole), French and Indian cuisine, with a hint of flavours from South East Asia. The food ranges from subtle to bold, spicy and hot.
Rice is the staple food although roots (like potatoes, cassavas and yams) and flour-based foods (like home-style breads, noodles and pasta) are widely used. One of my absolute favourite dish is the green banana curry. Green (unripe) bananas make a good starchy main ingredient in a number of food preparations and back in the days, they were also a cheap food source as many people grew banana trees in their garden. Nowadays, construction have replaced a lot of the green space allocated to garden cultivation, but nevertheless they still remain a popular ingredient in many savoury dishes. In Canada though, I can rarely find very green bananas in the stores; it is much easier to find green plantains. Hence, I have opted for plantains in this recipe as they are equally tasty when cooked in this way.
One other ingredient that I am using is whole yellow peas which I must say do take quite long to cook; you may want to use a pressure cooker if you have one. I like to cook these peas in bigger batches in advance, then portion them out and freeze them until required. Doing this saves me a lot of time and the curry can then be made much quicker. This curry by the way comes together really quickly if you have the pre-cooked peas or other beans of your choice; chickpeas are a good substitute if you prefer.
As for portions, I have provided an estimate, but I do think it really depends on who is eating and also probably how tasty the food is! This curry can be enjoyed on a bed of basmati rice or, my personal favourite, with these sweet potato flatbreads that I recently shared the recipe on my blog.
Prepare and cook the yellow peas
Place the soaked yellow peas in a deep pan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Skim off the foam then cover and let cook until peas are soft. This may take one to one and a half hours. Once peas are soft, drain all the water and keep peas aside.
Boiling the yellow peas can be done in advance as a batch preparation and kept in the freezer until required.
While peas are cooking, you can prepare the other vegetables and spice gravy.
Make the curry spice gravy
Heat a deep frying pan or wok, preferably non-stick (you will use the same pan to make the curry), on medium heat (do not add any oil). Add in the coriander seeds and fenugreek seeds and lightly toast for about 1 minute or less. Transfer to a blender.
Add all the rest of the curry spice ingredients to the blender and blend for about 1 minute or until all seeds and spices are finely blended with the coconut milk.
Prepare and cook the vegetables
Wash the plantains then cut them with the skin on, It is easier to cut the green plantains first then peel them. You can cut them into circles or across the length and then into thick strips of about 2 inches in length. Then peel each piece.
Add 1 tablespoon coconut oil in the deep frying pan or wok. Place the plantain pieces and fry until golden on the outside and soft inside. Occasionally turn them on all sides while they are cooking. Remove from the pan and drain on a paper towel. Set aside.
Wash and cut the green beans in half or one-thirds across. Add the green beans to the pan and toss lightly in the remaining coconut oil. Cook them until they are half done. Remove and set aside.
Make the curry
Add the curry spice gravy, the green chili (if using), the cinnamon stick and the chopped tomato into the same pan and heat gently until the sauce just starts to lightly bubble.
Add in the pre-cooked plantain, the yellow peas and the half-cooked green beans. Add salt to taste. Cover the pan and let the curry simmer for 15 minutes. Add in the green peas and simmer for another 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat. Garnish with some chopped cilantro and serve warm with flatbread or on a bed of basmati rice.
Teenuja Dahari is the food enthusiast, author and photographer behind the blog Veganlovlie which depicts the fusion of her Mauritian roots with the different countries she has lived in. Recently, she has teamed up with her partner, Kevin, and started a YouTube channel where she presents her heart-warming and delicious recipes.