With rich soils and a tropical climate, the Indian Ocean’s islands gave birth to a number of spices that have changed our world. And food on the islands — from Australia to Madagascar — differ depending on the traders and immigrants who settled and introduced their products and cooking techniques.
The warmest of the world’s oceans, these waters are teeming with fish and seafood. Around Madagascar, for example, you’ll find a vast amount of prawns, crayfish and crabs, while Mauritius is home to some of the best yellowfin tuna I’ve ever cooked with. And the region’s tropical climate ensures a vast variety of fruits and vegetables; coconut, tamarind, lychee and mango feature heavily in both sweet and savoury dishes.
The soup de tectec (top left) is a traditional Seychellois soup. Tectec is a type of clam found around the reef and in shallow, sandy places in the Seychelles. At low tide, local women and children can be seen collecting them along the shore. The white wine used in the dish shows the French influence on Seychellois cuisine.
Watalappam is a custard pudding made with Sri Lankan coconut, jaggery, cashew nuts, cardamom and cinnamon, was first introduced to Sri Lanka by the Malays. It remains a much-loved sweet today.
Comoros & Madagascar
The langouste de vanilla (left) is, for me, a perfect representation of the cuisine from Comoros and Madagascar. These islands are renowned as the producer of some of the world’s best vanilla and, in combination with garlic, ginger and lime, it offers an amazing flavour to complement the lobster. Some of islanders add local green peppercorns.
Top 3: Must-dine restaurants
For authentic Balinese cuisine, there’s nowhere better than Bumbu Bali. Opened in 1997 by Heinz von Holzen, the restaurant has won several awards and is recognised as one of Bali’s leading restaurants. balifoods.com
I’m always impressed with Chez Julien, on Mahé (Seychelles). It’s a small place, with an amazing setting on Anse Soleil Beach. Julien, the owner is well-known by locals for his Seychellois cuisine like whole fish, straight off the boat.
Finally, on Mauritius, Stars restaurant, at Shanti Maruice, is the first place in the Indian Ocean to have incorporated recipes and flavours from Aquacasia into menus. shantimaurice.com
Chef Willibald Reinbacher
Published in the May 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)