This is the ninth post in a series on the French-themed trip I took this summer. In the next few weeks, I’m bringing you back to the Indian Ocean, this time for our trip to the Seychelles. In earlier posts, we visited La Réunion, the French island colony in the Indian Ocean, where I tried French-influenced Indian cuisine, suggested an AOC for Chouchou de Cirque de Salazie, and visited the marché in St. Pierre, where we had caramelized banana jam. In case you missed them, read my earlier posts on how I became such a Francophile, come along on a Parisian food tour inspired by David Lebovitz, see me try out his recipe for pain d’épices au chocolat, read my homage to lovely Montmartre, and see the Space Invaders in Paris and the street art of Belleville.
* * *
Part One: Bats
Nestled in the clear turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, the islands of the Seychelles have a well-earned reputation for natural beauty and seclusion. Its créole (or locally, kréol) cuisine is not as well known. I travelled to the Seychelles last summer, and in preparation, I read up a little bit about the local food. The mainstays are seafood, which makes sense for a nation made up of a group of islands, and curries, known locally as kari, a holdover from the Seychelles’ colonial past. The other local specialty, I read, was bat. I didn’t need to make a note to myself that I should avoid this, but I did make sure to write down the kréol word for bat in my Moleskine.
After an epic 30 hour journey that began in New York, then made wild detours through Montreal, London and Dubai, my family and I arrived on Mahé, the main island of the Seychelles. A harrowing car ride on cliff-edged roads later, we arrived at our vacation rental across from Beau Vallon beach. We were exhausted and dazed, but also excited: we were finally in the Seychelles! Our warm host welcomed us with champagne flutes of sweetened sitronella (lemongrass tisane).
After passing out for a brief nap, we roused ourselves to go to the night market. Our Seychelles guidebook had remarked that Bazar Labrin, the night market in our small town, was especially interesting, and we happened to arrive on the one night it was held weekly. The bazar was smaller and quieter than we had hoped, but everything was novel and a sensory experience for the eyes, nose and palate. We strolled down one way and then back, observing what there was on offer, then stopped at several stalls to sample the local food. There were curries wrapped up neatly in chapatis, grilled kebabs, bonbons piments (chile-laced fritters), freshly squeezed juice of a local fruit called golden apple, and local moonshine (palm liquor). And then, I spotted it: kari zouri. “Don’t get that,” I warned my husband, “that’s bat!” I would have needed a lot of palm liquor to eat bat.
I thought bats were nocturnal?
The next day, I got up the courage to ask a local kréol speaking man how to say bat in kréol. Turns out I had mistakenly steered us away from an opportunity to sample curried octopus (zouri), not bat (sosouri), as I had feared. My kréol was not up to snuff.
If you liked this post, please come back next week for part 2, and consider sharing this with your friends. Thanks for reading.