You probably aren’t stopping by Mauritius for a quick bite on your way home from work, unless you happen to work on an Indian Ocean trading route in the 1800’s. But if you do, I recommend the noodles.
Mauritian fried noodles (either mines frire or mine frit or maybe something else) starts and ends with the noodles themselves. These are the fried Chinese medium-thickness egg noodle variety that bring a crave-ably dense and chewy texture. They are indulgent. The flavor comes from dark soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic and sesame oil which together give the noodles a rich salty sweet viscosity. (Other possible secret ingredients: oyster sauce, cooking wine or sherry.) The noodles fully absorb the sauce when stir-fried, adhering together into bundles that are gratifying to chew through. Throw in a handful of cabbage, carrots, chicken, shrimp, and Chinese sausage and you have a damn satisfying lunch (and even better leftovers).
I’ve been trying to figure out what makes this so much better than it’s close Chinese cousin lo mein, and truth be told, I’m not sure. The ingredients are largely the same, although I suspect it the specific variety of dry noodles are responsible for the dish’s signature dense chewiness. I also suspect the ratios matter, as you simply won’t find this dish swimming in its own oil like your average Seamless takeaway.
But I tell you, Mauritius is its own secret ingredient. The people are Indian, African, and Chinese. The colonists were Dutch, then French, then British. And the tourists— so very many tourists. This dish has been honed to satisfy many tastes. The island is also far AF away from everything else, so the flavors here have had time to marinate in isolation. Like my beloved ramen, these noodles may once have been Chinese in origin but now they are something else.
There’s plenty else to eat, of course. Indian curries. Fresh seafood. Indian curries filled with fresh seafood. Decent pastries (hat tip to the French colonists). Okay the variety isn’t exactly limitless, but you can do worse on an island whose nearest major landmass is another, bigger island.
I will freely admit my tourist bias here: any noodles eaten in a lounge chair by the pool are the best noodles. But even at the resort buffet, the mines frire seems to stand out as a local and tourist favorite alike. The Mauritian cook behind the counter, standing behind a giant wok filled with noodles and veggies, proudly told me that I was eating the same recipe that he ate growing up.
So I took seconds, and headed down to the pool.