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Dining and Food in the Seychelles

Seychelles Restaurant

When "fusion" cuisine came into vogue many Seychellois could have been forgiven for raising an eyebrow at such faddishness. The tables of the archipelago had long been enlivened by the likes of curries from India, explosively chili'd and smoothed with coconut cream; Chinese stir-fries and grilled or steamed fish; and aromatic blends of garlic, ginger and herbs from La Belle France.

Added to the abundant seafood of the Indian Ocean, and a cornucopia of tropical fruits and vegetables, Creole cuisine is fusion without the fuss - simply gorgeous fresh produce, cooked in a myriad mouth-watering ways.

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Specialities of the Seychelles

The Indian Ocean's fish are large, meaty, and packed with flavour, so seafood is a natural first choice in the Seychelles' eateries. The rounded red snapper, also called bourzwa, tastes like extremely tender chicken and is often grilled with garlic and ginger and served whole with a salad or rice and vegetables.

Tuna and king fish steaks are delicious grilled or fried in garlic butter, and picturesque parrot fish are usually deep fried in batter and come with a spicy tomato Creole sauce. Swordfish is also grilled, while sailfish is often smoked like salmon. Shark comes as a "chutney" - stir fried and seasoned with onions, herbs and the savoury bilimbi fruit.

Smaller fish - like mackerel, job fish and rabbit fish - are grilled or cooked as curry, fish soup or stew. Rabbit fish - kordonye in Creole - is nicknamed "the fish that makes women drunk" as one of its glands secretes an intoxicant. It tastes quite normal, but both men and women may feel tipsy after eating it.

Octopus, or zourit, is one of the Seychelles' chief delicacies, and needs to be cooked carefully till it is tender and can be chopped into a cold seafood cocktail or added to a hot creamy coconut curry.

Tec tecs - tiny white shellfish - are mixed with pumpkin and turned into soup. Sea snails are served in their pretty green-and-white shells, stuffed with their diced meat and plenty of herbs and garlic. Turtles, once the prime fare of passing seamen, are now protected by law and so no longer appear on any restaurant's menu.

Frequently offered as a starter is Millionaire's Salad, so called because a whole palm tree has to be cut down to harvest the heart - a slightly sweet, cool, crunchy vegetable which is the salad's principal ingredient.

Birds' eggs (terns being the most common) are not always available, but if they are, they are served usually hard-boiled or as an omelette. They are distinguished by a bright orange hue that is very different from chicken-egg yellow. Another typical Seychelles' delicacy, and something of an acquired taste, is curried fruit bat, which tastes a little like rabbit. Beware: its many small bones make it tricky to eat.

Fruits

It's said that eating breadfruit in the Seychelles will guarantee your return. There's certainly plenty of it - boiled, cut up as matchstick chips or barbecued with plenty of butter which adds to its nutty potato taste.

Other fruits abound, naturally. Jackfruit has a slightly off-putting odour but a distinctively sweet flavour. Avocados, aubergines (usually served as fritters) passion fruit and papaya grow everywhere and are similarly ubiquitous on restaurant tables. Several types of banana are cultivated, including St Jacques plantains, which are used in savoury dishes. Custard apples are called "ox hearts" in the Seychelles. Less well known is the corosol, also known as soursop, which has a similarly sweet creamy white flesh. The Jamalc, a smooth-skinned, cone-shaped fruit which tastes like an apple, is much favoured by both local children and the local tortoises.

Both pineapples and oranges are sometimes turned into a salad with onions and black pepper. Giant grapefruit, with thick skins and sweet pink flesh, come into season in April and May. Bigerades, which are rather like kumquats, are too sour to eat raw so are juiced or turned into marmalade.

Last, but by no means least of the islands' produce, is the coconut, which may be eaten raw, thinly sliced and toasted, grated or as a very sticky nougat. Lopping the top off a fresh coconut and drinking its juice is amazingly refreshing, and is reportedly a sure-fire cure for both jet lag and hangovers.

On the Subject of Drink

Coco d'Amour comes in a bottle shaped like a coco de mer nut, and has something of the texture of Bailey's Irish Cream. Local beers include Ecu and Seybrew, both lagers, and Guinness, which is surprisingly popular.

Toddy and calou, made from coconut sap, may be used to flavour some Creole dishes, and are sometimes sold by the bottle in small wayside bars. Overindulge in either of these, and you'll need a pint or two of the local mineral water, Eau de Val Riche - or some of that cure-all coconut juice.

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