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Get stuffed in Mauritius … on dholl puri, the perfect savoury pancake

roadside dholl puri stall in Grand Baie, Mauritius.
Puri and simple ... a roadside dholl puri stall in Grand Baie, Mauritius. Photograph: Alamy

Mauritians go misty-eyed at talk of dholl puri: a pancake made from ground yellow split peas seasoned with cumin and turmeric, griddled on a tawa (flat pan) and wrapped around cari gros pois (butter bean curry) with rougaille (spicy Creole tomato sauce), pickled vegetables, coriander satini (chutney) and chilli.

Originating from Indian parathas (stuffed flatbreads), dholl puri was introduced to Mauritius by Bhojpuri-speaking Indian indentured labourers from Bihar more than a century ago – and stuffed with the ingredients to hand, making it uniquely Mauritian. They are always sold in pairs, wrapped fish and chips-style in paper to take away and cost 14 rupees (30p). Typically, the nation’s favourite street food is then washed down with a soft drink.

The puri are filled with a dribbly but delicious butter bean curry.
The puri are filled with a dribbly but delicious butter bean curry. Photograph: Alamy

Dewa & Sons makes the best on the island and I meet Sudesh Dewa on the covered veranda of the red- and yellow-painted shop in the busy town of Rose Hill, where school children sit at tables with red vinyl tablecloths to tuck into the dribbly pancakes. Sudesh’s grandfather came up with the idea of creating a mini version of the giant dholl puri traditionally served at Hindu wedding feasts – filled with fish (or deer or goat meat) and eaten on a banana leaf – in the 1960s and sold them door to door from an aluminium pan on the back of his bicycle.

Sudesh’s father opened the shop 30 years ago, and at the age of 10 he started working here after school. His day starts at 3.30am, when he prepares the “pure veg” dholl puri from scratch for waves of workers, kids and market traders. Dholl puri can now be found all over Mauritius – and the appetite for them shows no sign of abating.

Dewa & Sons, corner Solferino, Rose Hill, Mauritius, on Facebook, open daily 6.30am-4pm; outlets in Curepipe, Bagatelle, Quatre Bournes and Port Louis

This article titled "Get stuffed in Mauritius … on dholl puri, the perfect savoury pancake" was written by Nicki Grihault, for The Guardian on Sunday 14 January 2018 12.00pm

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