The Seychelles is an archipelago country in the Indian Ocean, known for its pristine white beaches and its bountiful fresh markets. Although it is far from the shores of Africa, it is still considered an African country.
It is a popular destination for those seeking a bit of tropical paradise, and this popularity as a tourist spot has led to a relatively stable economy and a great amount of international influence on the islands.
The 115 islands that make up the nation were uninhabited until the 18th century when enslaved people from Western Africa were brought to the islands by European settlers. Despite there being no indigenous people on the islands, modern Seychellois carry great pride in their Creole heritage and culture. Since the beginning of the country’s existence, Seychelles has been a melting pot of people and cultures from around the world, a fact that shines through in its cuisine.
Table of Contents
Most Popular Seychellois Dishes
The Seychelles’ unique origin and history have created a robust Creole culture, while its island environment and access to the sea have given its cuisine a distinct island identity. Fish and shellfish are a major part of its cuisine, and many ingredients in household recipes are endemic to the islands.
Many Seychellois grow much of their ingredients in backyard gardens and either fish themselves or buy directly from local markets.
Most meals revolve around some kind of fish or shellfish accompanied by rice. They might be steamed, grilled, or boiled in coconut milk. Seychellois culture and cuisine have been influenced by Indian, French, African, Chinese, British and Spanish traditions. This leaves Seychellois cuisine as a melting pot of all these cultures.
Aside from the prevalence of fish in the Seychellois’ diet, they also use many of the island’s fruits and vegetables in their cuisine. Home to 23 different banana species, Seychellois use banana leaves for cooking and storage while the fruit is used to create delectable desserts.
With abundant access to tropical fruits, fresh fruit juices and drinks such as kalou (palm wine) and rum are enjoyed throughout the islands. Coconut, cassava, and palm are all important resources that are used in many dishes to add flavor and carbohydrates.
One clever way that the Seychellois use coconut is by using their husks as tinder in their grill fires– this gives the meat a sweetened aroma and flavor. The Seychellois’ dependence on their islands’ environment combines with their Creole heritage to create these most popular dishes.
The closest thing that Seychelles might have to a national dish, Bouyon Blan is a thick soup made with whitefish, loffa (ridge gourd), and bilenbi, a cucumber-like fruit that is commonly grown across the islands. Bouyon Blan is one of many kinds of Bouyons eaten in Seychelles, and it is this style of soup that is eaten nearly every day by the Seychellois.
Bouyon dishes come from the French influence on Seychelles cuisine. While this dishes name “Bouyon” refers to a clear broth, the actual Bouyon Blan is more similar to the bouillabaisse, a seafood stew originating in Mersailles, France.
Poisson Sale (Salted Fish)
Salted fish is simply any fish that has been caught and covered in salt in order to preserve it. It is enjoyed in many Seychellois dishes including curries, soups, and stews. With Seychelles’ unlimited access to amazing coastlines and nearby coral reefs, the options for freshly caught fish might seem endless. However, bad fishing days do happen, and this is where the practice of salting fish came in.
This preservation method was prevalent in the days before refrigeration, a practice that came relatively late to the remote islands of Sychelles. However, using salted fish in a recipe takes time due to the long de-salting process, so poisson sale is used less in the modern age. Still, it can easily be found in markets and stores, as well as in coconut curry, where the fat of the coconut helps to counteract the saltiness of the fish.
Red Lentil Dahl
Red lentil Dahl is a traditional Seychellois dish made with red lentils and vegetables stock, which is cooked down and seasoned with garlic and ginger. This dahl is enjoyed as a side dish and often eaten with curry, fish, or salad.
Many will add additional ingredients to this dish such as potatoes, tomatoes, or yoghurt. It is easy to create in large batches so it can be eaten over the course of several meals.
Giraffe Crab Soup
Giraffe Crab Soup is a thick umami soup consisting of giraffe crab and sweet potato boiled in a soy-sauce broth and seasoned with lemongrass, chili peppers, and ginger. Fragrant with a bit of spice, this is a popular soup to be eaten as a lunch or evening meal and is best enjoyed with rice.
Coconut Crab Curry
This curry, featuring fresh crab boiled in coconut milk and a red curry paste, is a creamy main dish found throughout Seychelles. With abundant options for crab found fresh markets, this curry is easy to make with a day’s fresh catch.
Along the beaches of Seychelles lie many small fishing docks. A common way of buying crabs as well as other fish and shellfish involves simply walking down to the docks and buying your groceries straight from the fishermen themselves.
Kari Koko Poul (Chicken Crab Curry)
Coconut Chicken Curry, much like the Coconut Crab Curry, is a red curry made with coconut milk and chicken, seasoned with traditional curry spices. If making this at home, you can adjust the amount of chili peppers to include to better suit your desired spice level. However, if you are eating a Coconut Chicken Curry made by someone Seychellois, be aware that they love their curry spicy!
With the abundance of sharks in the Indian Ocean surrounding Seychelles, it should come as no surprise that satinin rekin, or shark chutney, is a commonplace meal on the islands. Satinin rekin is made from a mix of fresh shark and grated green fruits seasoned with lime juice, onion, and chili.
Despite shark meats rarity in many parts of the world, consuming shark in Seychelles is quite commonplace and it is actually regarded as a low-quality meat. Shark meat is difficult to prepare due to the ammonia present in shark’s blood and can often have an astrigent taste. Shark is usually only consumed during times of scarcity.
Octopus curry is a flavorful curry made from chopped octopus, coconut milk, and eggplants, seasoned with traditional curry spices and a touch of cinnamon. Spicy and slightly sweet, this dish goes well with jasmine rice.
Palm Heart Salad, or salad palmis, is a cold salad made from fresh palm heart and onion which is mixed with a light dressing of olive oil, lime juice, sugar, salt and pepper. The mildly sweet flavor of the palm heart mixes with the sour of the lime juice, creating a slightly tangy and refreshing side dish.
In Seychelles, any dishes using palm heart will now only use the palm heart of coconut palms. To harvest a palm heart requires killing the palm tree, and coconut palms fast growth rate makes this a more sustainable option than the previously-used cabbage palm, which was harvested to endangerment.
Daube de Banana
Making use of the many banana species of Seychelles, Daube de banana is a sweet dessert made using banana, typically plantains, cooked in a pot with coconut milk, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. The coconut milk becomes thick and the plantain mushy as the mixture sits over the heat, creating a warm and delectable dessert perfect after a spicy curry meal.
Banana and Coconut Nougat
Banana and Coconut Nougat is an soft and chewy dessert made from freshly grated coconuts and mashed bananas. It is often sweetened even further with vanilla and nutmeg, giving it a well-balanced blend of sweet and nutty.
In Seychelles, the best banana to use for this recipe is the bannann mil, or the Asian sour banana. This nougat is easily enjoyed as a snack or dessert after meals, although preparing the fresh coconut does take time and effort.
Originally from India, Moutay, or “Rice Jalebies,” is a sweet and crunchy deep-fried dessert made with a rice-and-flour batter and dipped in a sugary syrup. It is known for its distinct coil shape and is often enjoyed as an evening snack or after a meal.
The coil shape of this dessert is achieved by funneling the batter into hot oil, either through a piping bag or small plastic bottles. Flavorings such as vanilla or rose water might be added, and the Seychellois version of this dessert is often thicker and fleshier than Moutay from India.