It was about three months back that Kavish Ramgoolam pointed out to his fiancée Reshma how that there was no Mauritian food, as far as he knew, being served up in Dublin.
The couple had left Mauritius, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, when they were in their teens. “We missed the flavours, the exotic food,” Kavish Ramgoolam says.
“So we came up with a plan,” says Ramgoolam, bustling through Oriental Pantry Supermarket on Moore Street, fresh dholl puri in one hand, creamy alouda in the other.
That was to serve quick Mauritian street food at the weekends. “We’re giving it a try,” says Ramgoolam.
Alouda and Puri
As gulls squawk for midday scraps atop empty stalls, Sunday shoppers pass by the Oriental Pantry. A couple enters from off Moore Street.
They move past the stacked bananas, loose green chillies and pre-packed pak choi, taking their seats at a small section near the shop’s front window.
Here, for the past four weeks, Kavish Ramgoolam and Reshma Sumluchun have been cooking Mauritian dishes.
With a population of 1.2 million people, the small island nation off the south-east coast of Africa, in the Indian Ocean, has a cuisine influenced by its Creole, French and Indian heritage.
Ramgoolam takes the couple’s order, but he breaks off mid-sentence. “You’ve never tried alouda?” he asks them, seemingly alarmed. “Oh, you have to try alouda.”
Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream floating on top, alouda is a thick and creamy milk drink. Dozens of tiny, tapioca balls, though, burst with zest to cut the drink’s sweetness.
“That’s our secret recipe,” says Ramgoolam, pointing towards the kitchen, to Sumluchun, who preps dholl puri.
“If Mauritius had a national dish, I’d say it’s dholl puri,” she says, setting down two fluffy, tear-apart pancakes filled with fresh butter beans, curry leaves, onions, turmeric, tomatoes and chilli, a tasty steal at €2.99.
Fresh yellow pea bites, traditional street fritters found throughout Mauritius, are next to the paper plate. Their crunchy shell gives way to chewy potato, onions, chilli, and cardamom.
For Ramgoolam, these flavours sum up his childhood in the small village of Roches Noires, on the east coast of Mauritius, one of the islands in the country of Mauritius, 14 miles from the capital Port Louis.
“I miss the food, I miss home as well,” he says. “It’s not easy when you’re in a foreign country.”
Since he moved to Dublin 12 years ago, he’s worked as a bar manager and part-time DJ, hosting Mauritian dance parties. Sumluchun works as a cleaner.
“We’ve never sold food in our lives,” says Ramgoolam. “We’ve never cooked for anybody in our lives. We’re giving it a try.”
Haleem and Bouille
They’re pulling it off. Throughout the afternoon, a handful of those making up Dublin’s 1,000-strong Mauritian population amble off Moore Street for a bite.
They orders dholl puri, and alouda too. Outside, a gull makes off into the air with an unopened pack of counterfeit fags, yanked from a plastic bag on the pavement.
While Sumluchun cooks, Ramgoolam greets, takes orders and serves, and soon the couple are lost to their busy afternoon.
In between orders, Ramgoolam explains how they’re trying to keep things simple right now, sticking to a five-item menu to start off.
Alongside dholl puri and alouda, roti(flatbread) comes served with a vegetable curry for €2.99, while haleem (traditional lamb soup) comes in at €3.99.
Specials vary from week to week. For now it’s mine bouilli, Mauritian ramen served with chicken for €5.99.
“We’re going to be trying new things every weekend,” says Ramgoolam. “This is Mauritian cuisine, but we like to bring in our own ideas – new spices, new flavours.”
Their Mauritian street food stand opens at Oriental Pantry Supermarket on Saturdays and Sundays from 12:30pm to 5pm.