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Seychelles – a taste of four continents By Glynn Burridge

If, as is often argued, a nation’s gastronomy is its most influential ambassador, then nothing can do greater credit to the Seychellois Creole culture than its divine cuisine.

Seychelles is all about diversity – harking back to a time in the mid-eighteenth century when this archipelago of over one hundred islands, still slumbering in its first innocence, was settled by a prophetic assortment of ‘fifteen whites, five Malabar Indians, seven Africans and a negress.

The original French settlers brought with them their legendary skills in the kitchen and their aromatic blend of spices and herbs which they adapted to an island life where seafood was abundant, meat less so and vegetables somewhat scarce. Necessity being the mother of invention, one way they achieved this was by using fruits as vegetables. This is why one finds particularly coconut, mango, papaya, pumpkin and golden apple prepared as chutneys to accompany tangy salads as well as dishes of pork, chicken and beef and, of course, fish, shellfish and crustaceans in all their Seychelles splendour.

To ubiquitous French tradition was added a certain British influence, evident in the Creole’s evergreen love of tea, cakes, custard, crumbles (and corned beef) but this was mild in comparison to that of the Chinese and Indian workforce arriving in the mid-1800s. The Chinese contributed their love of noodles and rice dishes with steamed fish and vegetables while the Indians introduced a variety of curries, beans, chillies, dhals, kebabs and the many piquant flavours of home. Meanwhile, via liberated Malagasy and African slaves, came velvety coconut milk, cassava and banana infusions.

Down the years, a melting pot of culinary techniques has taken root in Seychelles to mirror the varied ethnicity of its population, producing the grand symphony of flavours, tastes and textures which we know today as Creole cuisine.

Thanks to silky notes of vanilla, muscat, coconut, lemon grass, cinnamon, allspice and myriad other spices accompanying its rich harvest of seafood, quality meats, herbs and vegetables, Seychelles offers a tantalising choice of salads, mouth-watering main courses and decadent desserts.

Its array of enticing, colourful dishes, served against the backdrop of the islands’ unmatched natural beauty, lends quite another dimension to being a ‘foodie’ – one that will call you back to these islands time and again.

As you might expect of such a kaleidoscopic destination, great places to eat can be found in the fivestar cocoons of top international hotels but also in the intimate atmosphere of the smaller Seychellois hotels and restaurants where Creole fare is popular. Standalone restaurants, often in stunning settings, are many and dotted throughout the islands, serving a wide range of international favourites including Indian, Chinese, Japanese and classic French and Italian cuisines.

Beachside restaurants offer excellent seafood and an unforgettable, feet-in-the-sand experience as well, aligning you with the true Seychellois island lifestyle, while an assortment of bars and bistros serve great coffee, snacks and ice-creams for those on the run.

Seychelles is proud of its culinary heritage. Night bazaars and other nooks and crannies will introduce the curious visitor to local delicacies such as boudin (blood sausage), freshly BBQ’d fish and kebabs, homemade cassava and banana chips, graton (pork crackling) as well as tasty desserts in the form of cloying almond nougats and caramelised papaya. You might even be tempted to wash them down with a local fermented brew of la puree or bacca as you try your hand at a moutya – the once-forbidden dance of slaves – before an open fire, to the primal beat of a goat-skin drum and the soughing of the waves.

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