When I left my sheltered spot in the Caudan Waterfront car park, I was submerged into a rush of people and traffic circling the town centre. Nestled in the throng of the port is Central Market, a historical place of trade that has been around since the 1800s. In the bazaars outside, you'll find an array of 'Made in China' souvenirs. Don't bother with those. Fight your way through enough of those traders and you'll find yourself in the famous Central Market mezzanine: a cornucopia of Mauritian flavours. The entire floor is a maze dedicated to fresh produce from the staple miniature Victoria pineapples to vendors hacking away at baby coconuts and scraping out the pulp.
Food To Try
Some of these dishes were recommended to me via Instagram and others I happened to stumble upon while exploring the market. One thing that seems to be a common recommendation on all food blogs is the infamous dholl puri. Do not leave Mauritius without ordering these on tap. The vendor will spoon ladles of lentils and sauces on to one soft roti, then sandwich it with another before rolling it to hand over in butcher’s paper. All of this happens within about five seconds. It took me several rounds to realise that it is not the dhal puri I’m used to (lentils already rolled into the dough and deep fried.) Likewise, you cannot leave the island without trying the miniature Victoria pineapples that Mauritius in known for. Ask for it with salt, chilli and tamarind. Make sure you have something sweet like gateaux coco with you as well. Gajak is the term for most of the deep fried streetfood. The names didn’t confuse me though: where there is a vat full of oil, you are sure to find crisp aubergine fritters and cassava chips. After wandering around the rest of the market, I sent my husband off in search of alouda (faloodah without nauseating rose water, vermicelli or tapioca balls. I love it already.) as well as masala chai.
Places To See
Like most islands, Mauritius is home to several diaspora communities, namely Indian; Kenyan and Chinese. A few streets down from Central Market is China Town, home to little dim sum takeaways and several hardware shops. There’s not much of interest here but don’t be fooled. The walk is worth it for the street art embellishing the sides of shop walls. Just a stone’s throw away is Jummah Masjid. It’s hard to miss the clean white and pops of lush green paint along an otherwise bland street. The mosque is segregated for prayer but women are permitted to wander around the main site at any other time. Having never stepped foot in a mosque outside of London before, it was a deeply spiritual moment. If you are considering a visit, note that this is an active place of worship and visitors are asked to take their shoes off and cover their legs and hair as a sign of respect.
If you are a luxury traveler, used to being cradled by the swanky comforts of your hotel room, you will be the kind of person who leaves two star reviews for Port Louis on Tripadvisor. Sure, it's not the cleanest and orderly of places but if you're used to the likes of Billingsgate Market on a Saturday morning or Whitechapel Market on... any morning really, then the cacophony will not be any surprise to you. Smells and colours attack the senses at once the moment you walk in.
I was enthralled by the towers of fresh fruit and vegetables piled high on the stalls either side of me – each seemed to have been picked in accordance to its matching, perfectly polished companions. I’m glad I took the initiative to go very early in the morning and catch the market before it got unbearably busy; it meant that not hot food vendor or alouda stall went unexperienced!
Corderie St, Port Louis, Mauritius
Open 5 a.m-6 p.m (noon on a Sunday)
Park in Caudan Waterfront shopping centre and walk up
Royal Road, A1, Queen St, Port Louis, Mauritius
Bare skin and hair should be covered, women should carry a scarf if they intend on entering