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The cuisine that is uniquely Seychellois is actually a fusion of flavours from African, French, Chinese, Indian and English cooking. Over the centuries, spices have been combined to create a single flavour. The large selection of tangy, sweet, rich and spicy combinations makes the Seychellois cuisine a tourist attraction in itself. With hundreds of such flavours, Seychellois cuisine and beverages have a unique place in the world of cooking.
The Local Ingredients
Most of Seychellois cooking is based on seafood and chillies. With very little local transport of goods, the ingredients are super fresh and often directly from a garden or fishing boat. There are 10 different varieties of chilli, each with a distinct flavour, and each only suitable for a selection of particular dishes.
The roasted, grilled, fried, curried or raw fish is served with chatini or cooked vegetables including pumpkin, green mangoes or eggplant. The fish is also served with raw fruits and vegetables that may be served with vinaigrette.
Some of the favourite dishes are tamarind chutney, coconut fish curry and shredded green papaya salad.
Coconut and breadfruit are also two traditional bases for many Seychellois dishes. The coconut milk, meat and heart of the palm tree are used in most recipes. Breadfruit and rice is the carbohydrate staple and are eaten at every meal by the local people. The other locally grown vegetables and fruits most commonly used are:
• Choux chutes
• Golden apples
The meat commonly used is:
Bananas, manioc and sweet potatoes along with vanilla, garlic and ginger were introduced from eastern Africa. Merchants from India brought:
• Caris masala, which is based on the Indian word curry. It is a blend of vegetables, meat or fish and masala, which is a combination of coriander, fenugreek, cumin, cloves, mustard seeds and saffron
• Chatinis Seychellois, which is crushed chilies, ginger and garlic
• Pulao, which is rice cooked with fish, meat or vegetables
When Chinese merchants settled in the Seychelles they brought a whole new dimension of flavours including pork curry and giant crab soup made with sweet potatoes and citronella.
Some Unusual Dishes
If Rousettes are seen on a menu, the traveller needs to know it means fruit bats. It is served in many restaurants with several different styles of preparation. It is considered to taste a bit like venison by those who can compare and is challenging to eat because there are many tiny bones to avoid.
Shark chutney is a typical Seychellois dish that is made with shark meat that is boiled and mashed then cooked with bilimbi, a small cucumber, and lime juice. Fried onion, turmeric, salt and pepper are added. It is usually served with lentils and shredded green papaya with rice.
Ladob is a dish that may be eaten as a savoury or a dessert. The dessert is made of sweet potatoes and ripe plantain and may include breadfruit, cassava or corossol. It is boiled in coconut milk and nutmeg, sugar and vanilla are added. The dessert is creamy and soft.
The savoury version is cooked the same way as the dessert version, but with salted fish added. Salt is added instead of sugar and no vanilla is added.
The Freshest Seafood
Some of the fish dishes that visitors will have the opportunity to try in the Seychelles are shark, barracuda, parrot fish and kingfish along with the usual squid, octopus, grouper, red snapper and jack fish. Seychelles beef is a local name for turtle meat. A typical combination plate may include jackfish terrine, breadfruit and chicken salad, gratin of palm heart and papaya flowers chutney served with rice.
Red snapper or bourzwa is grilled with ginger and garlic and served with salad, rice and vegetables. This can be found at local cafes. Tuna and king fish make great steaks grilled in garlic butter and served with Creole sauce. Creole sauce is made with tomatoes, onions, green bell pepper and cayenne pepper.
Octopus made into zourit, a creamy curry, is a popular delicacy as is Tec Tec, a small white shellfish. It is collected from the beach and cooked with pumpkin for a delectable soup. During the egg laying season, several varieties of birds’ eggs are served hard boiled or made into omelettes.
Palm wine or calou is an alcoholic beverage that is locally made from coconut sap. It is also used in the preparation of many Seychellois dishes. Bacca is another alcoholic beverage that is made from sugarcane liquor and used for ceremonial events. Coco d’Amour is a tropical coconut liqueur that is made with coconut extract. Local beer includes Ekyu and Seybrew.
Fresh Fruit in Season
The variety of tropical fruit in Seychelles is huge with many varieties of bananas alone. There are also citrus fruits such as grapefruit, oranges and limes. The Jamalac is a cone shaped fruit that has soft skin and tastes like an apple. There are plenty of mangoes, pineapples, jackfruit, papaya and custard apples. These are made into fresh salads, juices or chutneys.
Appetizers and Snacks
Octopus salad is a combination of fresh octopus, onions and tomatoes with a squeeze of lemon juice. It is usually served just before the main course.
For a snack in the morning or for afternoon tea, Carotte Bananas is an exotic local dish made by wrapping bananas in banana leaves with honey and vanilla. It is allowed to dry and is very sweet and tasty. It does not contain carrots, but resembles the shape of a carrot when it is prepared.
Seychellois cuisine is unique because it blends the flavours of many different ingredients that were brought to the islands over the centuries. With their own coconut and breadfruit base as well as the abundant fresh seafood, the Seychelles people have created something new. The main flavours are rich, hot and spicy combined in a hundred ways to make each dish flavourful and special. It is worth looking for traditional, local food to experience the true flavours. Hotels often use the word fusion as a blend of French and Seychellois cuisine, but the local restaurants and cafes will give the real thing.