Reunion Island is located 500 miles west of Madagascar in the heart of the Indian Ocean. The island has a tremendous amount of natural diversity from tropical forests, captivating mountains, beautiful beaches, a French Creole/Indian inspired cuisine and yes, believe it or not, an ” active” Volcano called Piton de la Fournaise (Furnace Peak), it’s the last eruption was in 2004.
The volcano brings many from the scientific community to the island since it is active and one of the most active in the world. For more information and video of the volcano and volcanic eruptions of Piton de la Fournaisa | http://www.reunionisland.fr/volcano.html
So, needless to say, this small island which is most often passed over by most tourists other than the French, is truly action-packed. The island is a commonwealth of France so the currency is the Eurodollar. For Europeans this is convenient and for Americans, though the Eurodollar is a foreign currency, it is very easy to get accustomed to while traveling abroad.
I was able to get to an out door food market while on the island and it was all inspiring for any chef or foodie. The market was slow when I arrived in the late morning and by the time I left it was a totally bustling with locals. I shot some video, while walking in the market that I will share at the bottom of this post.
The content is good and regardless of the position of the video, you will get a great glimpse of the people, food and shopping at an outdoor market on a French island in the Indian Ocean, Reunion Island…pretty cool!
The Cuisine of Reunion Island:
Gastronomy is a way of life in Creole cultures, Reunion Island being no different. The cuisine is held close to the heart and in a timely manner. Culinary secrets passed down from generation to generation. The cuisine here is very aromatic. A plethora of races and nationalities have contributed to the integration of cuisines from India, China, France, Madagascar, and the African mainland making the local food, interesting and exotic.
Local restaurants will often mix Chinese, Indian, French, and Creole cuisine on the same plate. Sounds strange you may say but it works.
The food was very aromatic, colorful, and predominantly curry flavor-based. The cuisine leans greatly to some degree toward that of India… though like explained earlier there are great French, Chinese and African influences.
Spices and Bredes (Leafy Greens).
The use of local spices such as cloves, allspice also known in French as(quatre spices), bay leaf, pepper, cinnamon, vanilla bean, turmeric, and the country’s own saffron (which is made by grinding the roots of a local plant), and of course ginger and peppers which are the pillar of Creole cooking.
The market I went to was full of spices every spice imaginable, including fresh vanilla beans that smelled so good and were so moist and aromatic, I had to buy them along with a bag of quatre espices from Reunion Island. (see photo)
Brèdes (local leafy greens) are very much a part of the local diet as well and were in numerous locations throughout the food market. Various types of brèdes I saw, included chayote leaves, pariétaire (a leaf from the nettle family), Chinese cabbage, watercress, or sometimes even Brède Mafane (which anesthetizes the mouth), which is used in Roumazaf, the Madagascan” pot au feu.”
While walking through the market I came across a butcher section, I was told by a woman standing next to me at the counter that sausages are a specialty of Reunion Island, and that the most popular dish made from a spicy smoked sausage was called rougail sausage. This was a curry dish using these special sausages and is what was made the dish so delicious. I didn’t get to try this dish but most definitively will try to replicate it.
If one can’t find the “rougail sausage” from Reunion Island, the locals suggested substituting it with the French, Toulouse sausage ( saucisses de Toulouse.)
A fast track to understanding a people and their culture is… via their food, flavors, and cooking techniques. The flavors and aromas from this below recipe will transport you directly to the heart of the cuisine and the flavors of Reunion Island and its people.
Enjoy, the recipe on making the rougial sausage, curry dish >http://www.1vacation.com/rougailsge.html
Follow Franco Videos – Reunion Island Food Market.
The videos are sideways because I was unaware that a smart phone had to be held horizontal to get a vertical shot. The videos I feel still shows a great deal of the market and adds an impact-full way to the closing and understanding of this post… kindly excuse the incorrect format and… Enjoy!
Video (1): Stumbled across live poultry for sale, and the butcher area where the specialty sausages were sold.
Video (2): Taking a minute to regroup and explain the experience of the “Food Market”.
Video (3): Search for the Mangoes… “Bingo!” | Outdoor food marker Reunion Island
This blog post, along with the videos, gives some insight to the “Freedom & Power” that I relate to in cooking and try to express and share with other chefs, foodies and people with travel & food interests in general, regardless of one’s profession.
“Savor Life one Bite at a Time”
By: Franco Lania