Mauritian cuisine was a something of a mystery to us, not knowing anyone from that country, or having the opportunity to try the food in the US (though there was at one point a Mauritian restaurant in Portland, Oregon). However, we did know a little about its history as an island in the Indian ocean, home to the poor, extinct Dodo bird. We did a little digging and learned that the food is a reflection of the country’s position sitting as a crossroads between Africa and India in the Indian ocean, reflecting those two strong culinary traditions, along with European culinary influences from French colonizers.
Since Mauritius used to be a French colony, there are a few restaurants and grocery stores sprinkled across Paris as the Mauritian diaspora has traveled. We were looking for a well-regarded restaurant that would offer takeout, and Le Dodo (14 Rue de la Fidélité, 75010 Paris, France) emerged as a favorite. Le Dodo is both a restaurant and a small market selling packaged goods, spices, produce, and snacks from Mauritius. The array of goods was overwhelming, but we settled on buying some blended spice mix to make rasam, a classic Mauritian lentil soup with Indian roots, at the recommendation of the affable proprietor.
Mauritian food is heavily Indian-influenced, so many dishes will seem similar to those who are familiar with the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent. As a reflection of the Indian influence, there were several breads on offer, including naan and roti, and various types of samosas. This Indian influence continued in the entrees: chicken tikka masala, chicken korma, palak paneer, and tandoori chicken. One of the Indian-inflected specialties of Le Dodo, well-known in Mauritius, is the beef or chicken briyani. Another Mauritian specialty reflects Chinese influence on the island: “Mine” a noodle dish with vegetables and a protein stir fried in soy sauce, likely a descendant of Chinese mein noodles. Further Chinese influence is also seen in fried rice on the menu. Proudly displayed in a glass display case were a selection of scrumptious-looking desserts, including Indian ladoos and gulub jamun, alongside oundé, a semolina and coconut truffle, and Napolitaine, a frosted sandwich cookie filled with jam.
For takeout, we ordered another Mauritian favorite, Dholl Puri, a chickpea pancake with a spicy mustard and vegetable filling, and a roti, which turned out to have the same filling. For entrees, we picked chicken biryani and chicken mien. To add to that, we couldn’t resist a mango lassi (also available in coconut, vanilla, or rose), one of M’s favorites. Even after a 20-minute trip back to our apartment, we highly enjoyed everything we ordered from Le Dodo, and we were impressed by the sheer amount of food. The noodles were bright, punchy and flavorful, and the Dholl Puri was crisp, hearty and full of warming spices. The chicken briyani was tender, and one of the best renditions we had sampled anywhere. The oundé (our dessert pick) was a delicious confection with a bit of a toothsome bite and lovely light coconut flavor. Mauritius’ cuisine is an intriguing blend of cultural influences, bringing the best of Indian and East African flavors together. Le Dodo is a great place to get your feet wet with Mauritian cuisine, and to bring home some ingredients to try it for yourself.