A taste of Mauritius: Sunny-side-up egg, chicken and pak choi rice bowl
Selina Periampillai brings the vibrant flavours and colours of Mauritius and the Indian Ocean to the table.
SUNNY-SIDE-UP EGG, CHICKEN AND PAK CHOI RICE BOWL
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It's all about the egg dripping through the rice.
Selina Periampillai says bol renverse - a creole term meaning upside-down-bowl - is a theatrical Mauritian dish.
It's pretty simple but get it right and you'll be rewarded with the unveiling of a perfect dome of rice, topped with chicken, vegetables and a golden egg.
Gluten-free, dairy-free & vegan
250g basmati rice
2tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2.5cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 carrot, cut into thin matchsticks
125g shiitake mushrooms, sliced
130g baby corn, chopped
300g chicken breast, cut into strips, then halved
200g pak choi, trimmed, stalks cut diagonally into thin slices, leaves torn
2tbsp light soy sauce
1tbsp oyster sauce
1tsp fish sauce
1tsp cornflour, mixed with 150ml water
1tbsp olive oil
3tbsp finely chopped chives
Chilli paste to serve
1. Firstly soak the rice for 30 minutes in cold water (or wash a few times until the water runs clear). Drain well. Cook your basmati rice according to the packet instructions.
2. Place all your prepared vegetables and the chicken on a large plate, so everything is ready to add to the wok.
3. Place a large wok over a high heat and add the vegetable oil. Once the oil is hot add in your onion, garlic and ginger and, using a metal spoon or spatula, keep stirring the ingredients in the pan to avoid burning. Fry for one to two minutes.
4. Tip in the carrot, mushrooms, corn and chicken strips, give that all a good mix together and cook for two minutes while stirring. Next goes in the pak choi, which will wilt down eventually. I use all of it, even the white harder ends, which retain a nice crunch when cooked.
5. Create the base of the sauce by adding the soy, oyster and fish sauces into the wok and give them a good stir. Pour in the cornflour water mixture - this will thicken it all up and result in a glossy, light brown liquid.
6. Turn the heat down to a medium simmer, cover and gently cook for 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked throughout and the corn and carrots are softened, but still retain a slight crunch. Set aside.
7. In the meantime, fry the eggs. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on a medium-high heat and crack in the eggs, one at a time. Cook for around four minutes, taking care not to break the yolks, then turn off the heat and let them sit for one minute.
8. Take four medium-sized bowls, one per person, and begin to layer up your magic bowl. First divide the chicken and vegetable mixture into each bowl, then divide the rice equally and gently press down so you can't see any of the chicken mixture.
9. Take a dinner plate and get ready to invert your bowl (this is the trick). Place the plate over your bowl and, holding the plate securely, flip it over (so the bowl is upside down on your plate). Gently lift up the bowl to unveil your bol renverse, and carefully place an egg on the top. Scatter with chives and add chilli paste on the side.
CHILLI DHAL FRITTERS
Packed with green chillis and coriander, they make perfect on-the-go snacks. These chilli dhal fritters - known as 'gateaux piments' - are one of the most popular street food snacks in Mauritius. Periampillai's cookbook includes a recipe for a green chilli chutney that makes perfect dunking material for these little fried balls. Or do as the locals do and chuck them generously into a crusty baguette.
200g yellow split peas
3 spring onions, finely chopped
2tbsp finely chopped coriander
2-3 green chillies, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1L vegetable oil, for deep frying
1. Place the yellow split peas in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Leave to sit overnight and soak.
2. The peas should have puffed up slightly and the water reduced by the next morning. Drain them well and tip into a food processor. Blitz until the peas are a coarse paste and clump together. Tip the crushed peas into a large mixing bowl and add all the other ingredients apart from the oil. Combine well with a spoon.
3. Take a tablespoon of the mixture in your hands and, pressing firmly, form into a ball shape (about the size of a golf ball). Each will weigh around 25g and you should get 25 balls. Repeat with the remaining mixture and place them all on a plate ready to be fried.
4. Pour the vegetable oil into a deep, heavy-based saucepan or deep fat fryer and heat to 180°C. You can tell when the oil is the right temperature by dropping a small cube of bread into the oil. If it browns evenly in 30 seconds then it is ready. When the oil is hot enough, carefully drop in the balls (about four or five at a time, to prevent overcrowding in the pan).
5. The fritters should sizzle in the oil. Using a fork or a slotted spoon gently move them around so they colour evenly. It will take a couple of minutes until they are golden brown and cooked throughout. If they brown too quickly, reduce the heat slightly to make sure they cook inside.
6. Drain on a wire rack with kitchen paper underneath to catch any excess oil. Serve with coriander green chilli chutney or crushed into a crusty white baguette.
MALDIVIAN TUNA CURRY
'Dhon Riha' celebrates two important ingredients in Maldivian cuisine: tuna and coconut. Coconut is served at almost every meal in the Maldives, Periampillai explains. In this dish, known as 'Dhon Riha' in the Indian Ocean archipelago, the tuna is enhanced with Southern Indian spices such as cardamom, curry leaves and turmeric. Unlike lots of curries though, this can be prepped in 15 minutes and cooked in a further 15, proving authentic Maldivian cuisine can be easier to whip up mid-week than you might have thought.
500g tuna steak, cut into 2.5cm pieces
1tbsp coconut oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cardamom pods, seeds only, crushed
2.5cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
10 curry leaves, finely chopped
1 green chilli, finely sliced
1 onion, finely sliced
½tsp ground fennel seeds
½tsp ground cumin
½tsp ground turmeric
½tsp black pepper
400ml tin coconut milk
1 cinnamon stick
Coriander, to garnish
1. Lightly salt the fish and set aside.
2. In a large saucepan, warm the coconut oil over a medium heat until simmering. Add in the garlic, cardamom, ginger, curry leaves and chilli. Let this saute until fragrant - usually around 30 seconds. Add the onion slices and cook until softened, around five to seven minutes. Add the rest of the spices: The fennel, cumin, turmeric and black pepper. After around a minute they will mingle together and become aromatic.
3. At this point, transfer everything into a food processor and blend to a coarse paste.
4. Return the paste back to the pan over a medium heat, pour in the coconut milk, holding back one tablespoon for drizzling at the end, and pop in the cinnamon stick and half a teaspoon of salt.
5. Bring to a simmer and gently add the fish pieces to the sauce. They will cook fairly quickly.
After five minutes, the fish should be tender, opaque and cooked throughout and the curry will be ready to serve. Drizzle over the extra coconut milk, scatter with the coriander and serve with a heap of rice.