Short answer: not hard at all. We didn’t expect it to be this easy, but it’s really, really easy. Below is a list of some vegetarian dishes common to Mauritius. But first, let’s talk about why it’s so easy to find vegetarian food in Mauritius.
- 1 Why is it Easy to be a Vegetarian in Mauritius?
- 2 How to Order Vegetarian Food in Mauritius?
- 3 What Restaurants Have Vegetarian Food?
- 4 List of Vegetarian/Vegan Dishes in Mauritius
- 5 Helpful post? Consider buying me an alouda!
- 6 Sharing helps others find this post!
Why is it Easy to be a Vegetarian in Mauritius?
Hinduism and to a lesser extent Buddhism. The majority of people in Mauritius are of (north and south) Indian descent. They practice many different religions, but many of them practice Hinduism. And though it’s not obligatory to have a vegetarian diet in Hinduism, many prefer it due to their interpretation of the religion. That is why most Mauritian businesses not only cater to vegetarians but also understand its principles and respect it.
The kind of vegetarianism most Hindus practice excludes meat, fish, and eggs, but includes dairy (and honey). When you’re a vegetarian who consumes dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and butter, this is called lacto-vegetarianism. That’s why the common meals that are vegetarian in Mauritius aren’t automatically vegan as well.
I’m a lacto-ovo vegetarian, so sometimes there is a moment of confusion. One time we asked for an egg with our fried rice and the guy suggested we might as well put some chicken in it. But when we said egg is okay, chicken is not, he also understood that. And we also understand that some might interpret eggs as a sort of proto-meat.
Moreover, some Hindu diets exclude onion and garlic from their dishes. This is often referred to as ‘pure vegetarian’. It leans into Jain vegetarianism, which also excludes carrots and potatoes. These restaurants might be closed twice every month on a day called Ekadashi, which you can Google if you don’t follow the Hindu lunar calendar. On our Turkish Airlines flight to Mauritius, we pre-ordered the Vegetarian Jain Meal (VJML). I’m 99% sure it was also vegan.
There are restaurants all over Mauritius that only serve pure vegetarian foods. My theory is that Jain/pure veg restaurants are also the best choices for vegans as it’s easy to ask for dishes that also exclude ghee, yogurt, paneer, and honey. The chefs are very conscious about what they put in.
All in all, being a vegetarian in Mauritius has been stupidly easy. Though we also speak French, at most places you can order in English without problems.
How to Order Vegetarian Food in Mauritius?
You can approach this in French or in English. The chances of communicating effectively are higher in French, but only if you can also understand the reply. I think it’s always easiest to ask “Vous-avez des plats végétariens?” The answer is usually “Of course.”
Some restaurants have menus with a whole vegetarian section. It’s easy to order from that by just pointing at what you want and mumbling it. In my (white) experience, people often point out that you’re ordering from the vegetarian section, thinking you’re making a mistake. That’s because many white people are big meat and fish-eaters and specifically come to Mauritius to indulge in seafood. You simply affirm that you are a vegetarian and this is certainly not a mistake.
Other restaurants have a daily changing menu and nothing on paper. They sometimes have a printed sign or a whiteboard with a list of dishes. If there’s nothing specifically saying ‘veg’, that doesn’t mean they can’t make it. Mauritian chefs are very accommodating to vegetarians and they’ll just chef something up if you ask if they have vegetarian food. It will usually be fried rice or fried noodles, though. They fry up a portion fresh, so you don’t need to worry that they simply picked out the meat pieces.
What Restaurants Have Vegetarian Food?
Pretty much all of them. Let’s start with the local Mauritian restaurants.
Out of local restaurants, there are two types: regular restaurants and snack places. So far, we haven’t found much of a difference except opening times, with the snack places closing before nightfall. Both have Mauritian classics such as mine frite and riz frite that can be vegetarianized. You can usually add egg to them like in the pictures below: left without egg, right with egg.
In our experience, snack places have a greater variety of vegetarian food. You can often have the vegetarian section of the buffet with a plate of white rice, or the same stuffing inside a farata (paratha), or roti/chapati. Snack places are also much cheaper than regular restaurants and you can pay as little as Rs. 50 for a massive plate of fried noodles.
Out of regular restaurants, you have a variety of fanciness. Usually, you can see how fancy a place is by their tablecloths, but this isn’t a guarantee. The closer they are to the sea, the more fishy things they’ll have on the menu.
Nearly all regular restaurants serve the Mauritian classics. If it’s a restaurant that also caters to foreigners, they’ll also have things like French fries and (meaty/fishy) hamburgers. One restaurant in Mahébourg that does vegan hamburgers (beyond meat) is Le Bazilic. The only regular restaurant we’ve been to that didn’t have the classics is the restaurant La Glace Italiana in Souillac.
Pure vegetarian restaurants exist on a different plane. They can be fancy or more like a buffet. Or a fancy buffet. We haven’t visited enough of them to really know yet.
Street food places exist sporadically, usually around big markets. They often sell this mystery food which is a giant deep-fried papadom (?) with a sweet and sour tamarind sauce. In the picture below you can see we brought it home and put it on a plate. I asked if it’s vegetarian and it is. When it’s mango season, they also sell mango confit. That’s unripe mango pickled in a sauce of green chilies, vinegar, water, and salt.
I still have to analyze these businesses more, but there could be a third category: boulettes places. These are small restaurants that specialize in dumplings.
And finally, you might be eating at your guesthouse/hotel/Airbnb. The mother-in-law of our Airbnb host sometimes cooks for guests (for payment). We did this twice and both times it was amazing. She was quite surprised to hear we’re vegetarians but also thought it was kind of cool and rolled with it. Once we had briani (biryani) with a dessert of papadoms and sagoo. First we thought the papadoms belonged to the rice dish because that’s how Malaysia raised us, but she said no no no, here the salty papadom goes with the dessert. The second time we had homemade faratas with various dishes and fresh sweet mango in vegetable oil for dessert.
List of Vegetarian/Vegan Dishes in Mauritius
The Two Mauritian Condiments: garlic sauce and green chili sauce
The first meal we ate in Mauritius, two condiments arrived at the table. Marilyn explained that one is garlic sauce (sauce l’ail) and the other is green chili sauce. The garlic sauce is basically just finely chopped garlic in water. Fancy recipes also put in honey, which would make it not vegan. But most people just use garlic, water, salt, vinegar, sugar, and maybe chilies or herbs if they’re fancy. The green chili sauce (piment crasé/pima krazé/piment vert) contains green chilies, garlic, onion, salt, lime juice/vinegar, and oil. Sometimes it’s red, depending on the chosen chili.
You’ll see these two condiments on the sides of the pictures down below.
The Carby Classics
Know that you sometimes need to ask to make these dishes specifically vegetarian.
Fried rice is your first line of defense against feeling famished. If you start walking, the first restaurant you’ll pass probably has it. You can ask people to add egg to it, which will usually be scrambled in there. Sometimes, the fried rice comes with something that looks like pieces of meat. If you ask about it, they will tell you it’s ‘crispy’. Crispy is a versatile word that can mean mock meat. Mock meats are very popular in Mauritius as well as Malaysia to make vegetarian dishes more epic. Most mock meats are also vegan and most of them also don’t contain onion and garlic.
Mine frite (sometimes ‘mine frire’)
Fried noodles. What can go wrong? Only the picture on the left has it without an egg.
Vegans might wonder if the noodles contain eggs. I don’t know yet, but I’ve seen these noodles sold at the supermarket and I’ll find out. I would assume that they don’t have egg since there are many Hindu vegetarians who don’t eat that.
We haven’t tried this yet. Either it’s just the noodles boiled and not fried, or it’s like a noodle soup and comes in broth. The broth is a little tricky because it might not be vegetarian. We will order this one day, just not yet. UPDATE: we tried this in Rodrigues at a place that specifically had mine bouille veg. It’s epic. Almost like a laksa. Read this article for more info about being a vegetarian in Port Mathurin, Rodrigues.
Bol renversé (magic bowl) with noodles/rice
This dish exists on 90% of menus. They fill up the vegetables in sauce in the bottom of a (glass) bowl, then load it up with steamed rice or (fried) noodles. You have to lift the bowl yourself – try not to burn your fingers – and a steamy mound of food remains. The first picture is from Les Aigrettes Snack and the second from Chez Marilyn, both in Mahébourg.
Side note: once we had one (not pictured) that had a base sauce that tasted like ragoût. I don’t know if ragoût sauce is vegetarian or not, but I associate the flavor with the meaty dishes of my youth a lot.
Found at Snack Places
Pain fourré veg
Filled bread. They usually can stuff it with something vegetarian, usually vegetables and stews. They’ll offer to add green chilies to the sandwich, which you might want to decline. The bread can be hard to bite off, so if you have dental issues, maybe opt for the softer farata veg. Picture from Pradip Snack in Mahébourg.
A vegetarian wrap called farata, roti, or chapati stuffed with the vegetarian stew of the day. During our visit in December, it was often filled with a deliciously spiced pumpkin mash. If you ask “Vous-avez farata veg?” they might say no, but they actually have it with chapati instead. Farata contains ghee and is therefore not vegan. Chapati/roti can be made without ghee and therefore can be vegan.
The first picture is from Sabeka in Souillac. The second from Les Aigrettes Snack in Mahébourg.
In the pictures, they seem to play second fiddle, but we really do love ourselves some vegetarian samosas. They’re often a starter. Here’s a recipe.
An Indian-style meal that sometimes comes on a very cool metal plate. Wherever they have thali, there’s also vegetarian thali. I don’t make the rules. This full meal comes with a drink and a dessert. It is always delicious. It can be spicy.
Found at Regular Places
Panini veg/fromage (or baguette)
We almost never order the panini because it sounds so basic, but we had a vegetarian panini and vegetarian baguette on the same evening at l’Ajoupa in Mahébourg and it was so good. Comfort food. It had cheese.
With salade mix(te), it depends on the restaurant what it will be. Sometimes it’s a mix of veggies like carrot, cabbage, beetroot, and onion. Sometimes it’s cucumber, tomato, carrot, and lettuce. If you’re vegan, make sure to ask what kind of sauce they’re using or to leave the sauce out completely. Sometimes we had a yogurt-based sauce.
If you’re worried about eating uncooked stuff like salads because you once read somewhere that that gives you the runs, I’m sorry you believe that. The salads we ordered in Mauritius never gave us any trouble. We also drank the (filtered) tap water in Mauritius without problems. Not eating salads while traveling is no way to live.
Tofu in (black bean/sweet-sour) sauce
The local word for tofu is teokon. We haven’t seen tofu on the menu often, but when it’s there, we usually get it. This picture is from restaurant La Colombe in Mahébourg.
Chop suey with rice/curry paneer with rice/kofta with rice
A few fancier restaurants make dishes with paneer, vegetarian kofta (potato-based), and vegetarian chop suey. Note that not all chop suey is vegetarian. These restaurants will often have a menu with a vegetarian section that will have these dishes. These photos are from restaurant Escale des Îles in Souillac.
Basically, it’s vegetable tempura. We ate this at Chez Marilyn in Mahébourg twice and loved it.
Boulettes chouchou (sawmai/nyouk yen)
These are steamed dumplings. They’re often filled with chouchou; a local squash-like veggie also known as chayote. Sometimes they’re called sawmai (shumai) or nyouk yen. If there’s a difference, I haven’t found it yet (sorry). When ordering boulettes, please make sure to ask if they’re really vegetarian, since something labeled as “boulettes fromage” might actually be fish and cheese balls.
They also offer to put these dumplings in a broth. That’s something I don’t recommend because the broth is usually not vegetarian and often fish-based. See the picture above in the broth. These are mixed boulettes chouchou and boulettes fromage (cheese). Just eat them steamed and dry!
Foods that are not Mauritian (or French or Indian)
Think pizza, pasta, beyond meat burger, vegetarian burger with a regular patty, Thai green curry, pad Thai… You’ll know it when you see it. Most of these photos are from Le Bazilic in Mahébourg. The Italian food is from La Glace Italiana in Souillac. The simple vegetarian burger is from restaurant Le Phare in Mahébourg.
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