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The most commonly used spices in Mauritian cuisine

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Flavouring and herbal ingredients, scented or hot, spices are used for seasoning. In the form of sticks, like cinnamon, buds like saffron, cloves, leaves like thyme or curry leaves, fruits like pepper and mustard, garlic, onion and ginger --- spices definitely add taste to food. Sneak peek into the world of taste and the most commonly used spices in Mauritian cuisine.

Garlic

Garlic comes from central Asia and is a universally accepted ingredient. Garlic is a bulb, which belongs to the same family as the onion, the shallot, chives or even the lily and the tulip. It is an ingredient that accompanies most Mauritian dishes. Whether it is in the popular rougail (red sauce made with tomatoes), curry, broth or the famous biryani, garlic enhances taste and adds fragrance to your dishes. With its powerful antimicrobial and antibiotics properties, garlic is also used as medicine in different cultures across the world. Garlic’s main ingredient, allicin, contains powerful antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties that can fight several pathogenic bacteria.

 

Ginger

Ginger has been used for over 5000 years. It is one of the main aromatic plants in ayurvedic medicine. It belongs to the zingiberaceae family --- the same family as the curcuma, to which it is often associated in cuisine. In Mauritius, ginger perfumes and adds tastes to the rougails, gives a special flavour to green leaves broths (we call them bouillon brède) and to fish. This aromatic tuberous rhizome also brings flavour to the biryani.

 

Cilantro

Mauritians use both the leaves and the seeds of cilantro or coriander. The leaves are often used in chutneys, sprinkled over curry towards the end of cooking time, and give a unique taste to the Mauritian-special - the biryani. Coriander seeds are roasted, grounded, and mixed with masala --- an unescapable bouquet of spices in Mauritian cuisine.

 

Masala

A blend of roasted and grounded spices, masala is a common flavouring for meat and vegetables. It is made of coriander, cumin, mustard, curcuma, cloves, cardamom, black pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, and mild or hot chilli. It gives a brown texture to the dishes and a taste that leaves no Mauritian indifferent.

 

Chilli

Chilli is one of the fruits of the five species of capsicum-like plants of the solanaceae or nightshades family. Its pungent taste definitely enhances flavour or meals. Sometimes, it is added directly to cooked dishes. At other times, it comes in the form of a paste, and used as a dip. Some Mauritians swear by chilli for their lunch and dinner. We understand why it has become one of the main ingredients in tropical cuisines. Did you know that chilli contains more than vitamin A than any other fruit or vegetable? It is indeed an important source of vitamin C, magnesium and iron. Chilli also has a bactericidal effect.

 

Curry leaves

Curry leaves or caripoulé as it is known in Mauritius or kaloupillay in Reunion Island, originates from Southeast Asia. We owe its presence in the western part of the Indian Ocean to the Indian indentured labourers. The leaves of the caripoulé release a perfume and a scent that are primarily linked to chicken curry. In certain cuisine, it is where the masala is!

In Reunion Island, the kaloupillay is used to prepare the massalé, a mixture of spices almost similar to the Mauritian masala.