A taste of the Indian Ocean

Chef Willibald Reinbacher travelled across the Indian Ocean gathering recipes for his new book. Here he reveals his fusion food favourites from the region.

Published 29 Apr 2017, 09:00 BST, Updated 8 Jul 2021, 14:44 BST


Photograph by Lucas Lienhard

With rich soils and a tropical climate, the Indian Ocean's islands gave birth to a number of spices that have changed our world. And food on the islands — from Australia to Madagascar — differ depending on the traders and immigrants who settled and introduced their products and cooking techniques.

The warmest of the world's oceans, these waters are teeming with fish and seafood. Around Madagascar, for example, you'll find a vast amount of prawns, crayfish and crabs, while Mauritius is home to some of the best yellowfin tuna I've ever cooked with. And the region's tropical climate ensures a vast variety of fruits and vegetables; coconut, tamarind, lychee and mango feature heavily in both sweet and savoury dishes.

The soup de tectec (top left) is a traditional Seychellois soup. Tectec is a type of clam found around the reef and in shallow, sandy places in the Seychelles. At low tide, local women and children can be seen collecting them along the shore. The white wine used in the dish shows the French influence on Seychellois cuisine.

Sri Lanka
Watalappam is a custard pudding made with Sri Lankan coconut, jaggery, cashew nuts, cardamom and cinnamon, was first introduced to Sri Lanka by the Malays. It remains a much-loved sweet today.

Comoros & Madagascar
The langouste de vanilla (left) is, for me, a perfect representation of the cuisine from Comoros and Madagascar. These islands are renowned as the producer of some of the world's best vanilla and, in combination with garlic, ginger and lime, it offers an amazing flavour to complement the lobster. Some of islanders add local green peppercorns.

Top 3: Must-dine restaurants

Bumbu Bali
For authentic Balinese cuisine, there's nowhere better than Bumbu Bali. Opened in 1997 by Heinz von Holzen, the restaurant has won several awards and is recognised as one of Bali's leading restaurants. 

Chez Julien
I'm always impressed with Chez Julien, on Mahé (Seychelles). It's a small place, with an amazing setting on Anse Soleil Beach. Julien, the owner is well-known by locals for his Seychellois cuisine like whole fish, straight off the boat.

Shanti Maruice
Finally, on Mauritius, Stars restaurant, at Shanti Maruice, is the first place in the Indian Ocean to have incorporated recipes and flavours from Aquacasia into menus. 

Chef Willibald Reinbacher
Having cooked in kitchens worldwide, Willibald is now executive chef at Shanti Maurice, in Mauritius. His book, Aquacasia: Culinary Jewels of the Indian Ocean, developed with Shanti Maurice, features photos by Lukas Lienhard. aquacasia.com

Follow @WillibaldReinb1

Published in the May 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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