The folks from PlateCulture dropped me an invite for dinner recently, and the session also serves as an introduction to a new dining concept that was recently launched in KL.
A little about PlateCulture: It’s a marketplace that connects people who love cooking and hosting dinners with those who love eating authentic home cooked meal while traveling in new places.
Each dinner is an unique experience where people share food, learn new things and build friendships all over the world. This is a whole new trend in the city to redefine dining habits.
So basically there are nice, friendly gracious expats who would like to make new friends and also spread some awareness of their home country, starting with food (food is the best ice -breaker isn’t it?) and of course over dinner conversation can stray from food to cultures, music, fashion and anything else that tickles your fancy. One literally visits as a stranger and leave as friends.
That was exactly my experience just a week ago during my session – Mauritian Delights in the home of the gorgeous Shiksa. Dinner was a simple 4 course meal cooked with fresh ingredients, low salt and no MSG, just like how food was prepared at home for her family.
The vibe was casual, the conversation easy and we had a relaxing time getting to know one another; the other diners and myself and together with our host.
Food was surprisingly familiar, with the use of soy sauce, diced chicken dusted with corn flour and stir-fried with vegetables. The presentation was rather cute; as shown by our host but other than that, it does seem to be merely stir-fried chicken in soy sauce with vegetables and an added fried egg.
That’s it. Simple and good.
Upside Down Rice: Bol Renverser.
Start with a fried egg at the bottom. Then the chicken.
The vegetables and rice are next.
By the way, according to Shiksa, basmathi (not your usual rice) is a common staple.
Nice fluffy, long grain Basmathi. Is there a difference versus the usual generic rice you ask? Well, I certainly think there is!
Press down the rice to compact it, pour in some sauce from the chicken, cover the bowl with a plate and it’s ready to serve!
Below: Shiksa handling me my dinner. 🙂
And dinner is ready.
Well, not quite. Shiksa then proceeded to demonstrate how it was served back in Mauritius.
First you hold the bowl and plate together firmly. Then turn it over swiftly, give a the bottom of the bowl a nice thump and slowly remove the bowl.
So that was the reason for the fried egg to be at the bottom. The bowl came off easily enough and my dinner, as simple as it is, looked scrumptious!
Lovely isn’t it? Chicken and vegetables and the sauce all combined with the fluffy rice plus an egg. For me eggs goes well with anything.
A popular condiment for the Mauritian meal is Garlic Sauce and Chilli Sauce. However, both didn’t look anything like our usual paste versions. For example, the below is their garlic sauce; a watery clear liquid that could easily be mistaken as “finger bowls” – water for washing hands at the table. LOL.
Below: Garlic Sauce: la sauce l’ail.
Chilli sauce: la sauce piment (usually made with green chillies and lemon, but this version had added green apple for a twist). This unassuming paste is fiery hot and leaves a long afterburn in the mouth. Syiok! 😀
We dipped our appetizer of cabbage fritters into this chilli sauce and eschewed the a trio of condiments that came with it; ketchup, chilli & mayo.
This was nothing fancy and again, tasty and simple.
Cauliflower Fritters: Gato Salé. These fritter had only cauliflowers but you can use any vegetables like potatoes, eggplants, green chilli, or even bread.
According to Shiksa, sometimes they just fry the batter without adding anything. Sounds like our cucur badak doesn’t it? 🙂
All of really enjoyed the soup. On the first sip, my first thought was “dhal soup” as it does have the consistency of watery dhal!
Red Lentil & Fish Soup: Dal.
Shiksa said she usually make it plain but tonight she added fish because she likes it with fish while some people prefers vegetables.
To complete the meal was a Strawberry Flavoured Dessert: Alouda. This is a very popular drink served at street stalls and markets in Mauritus but Shiksa usually serve this as a dessert because its quite filling.
I loved it. Creamy strawberry milk with basil seeds, jelly and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream was just perfect to end the meal. Actually anything with ice -cream is. 😀
I must admit the dinner was a very gentle initiation to Mauritian cuisine. Being a first timer to Mauritian cuisine, I must admit that I had expected something more exotic. I didn’t do any prior research as I had wanted to be surprised and indeed I was surprised, though in an unexpected way.
However, Shiksa gave me a quick background about Mauritian food and below is a small excerpt:
” Mauritian food is a combination of native African, French, Chinese and Indian, with many dishes created that are unique to the island of Mauritius. Indian curries, breads and pickles are cooked alongside slow-braised European daubes and stir-fried noodles from China, all using locally available ingredients.
The most common ingredients used in Mauritian recipes are tomatoes, onions, garlic and chillies, which cook up with a couple of spices into a delicious fresh tasting sauce used every day called a rougaille. Vegetables, meats and seafood can be cooked in the rougaille and eaten with achards (pickles) and dhal or rice. Spices are also a big part of Mauritian cuisine with turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves used liberally.
There are some dishes that seem to be made for a nation that has better things to do than cooking and vindaye is one of them. It is fried fish or octopus preserved in a combination of mustard seeds, chilli, garlic, oil and vinegar. It was created before refrigeration but even now that white goods are everywhere, it’s an easy and delicious protein hit that can be served hot or cold with rice, pickles and dhal.
While the Indian population has had a huge influence on the cuisine, Mauritian curries are unique. They rarely contain coconut milk and interestingly, also often feature what are more typically known as European herbs, like thyme. Often curries feature more unusual meats and seafood like octopus or duck, along with the meat and vegetable varieties.
Everyone loves the readily available delicious street food of Mauritius, which includes falafel-like spiced, fried split pea cakes called gateaux piment. The other big favourites are dholl puris – flat bread with a thin layer of yellow split peas which is then rolled up with a variety of pickles, cooked vegetables and chutneys.
Desserts range from elaborate French-influenced tarts filled with bananas, almonds or pastry creams to impossibly pink cute raspberry shortbreads sandwiched with jam called napolitaines. And of course there is abundant tropical fruit to finish a meal.”
After her little lesson I realized that the dishes we had earlier were pretty familiar because the ingredients and method of cooking are similar to our Asian cuisine! No doubt there are a bit of variation here and there as well as some uniquely Mauritian food, which are the ones that I’m interested to sample in the near future now that I know Shiksa!
Or perhaps, if I could get a group of 5, I’ll request Shiksa for a uniquely Mauritian meal. Anyone? 🙂