When you think of Seychelles images of its gorgeous palm fringed beaches, unrealistically blue waters, tropical rainforests and amazing scuba diving cloud the mind. But this small island in the Indian Ocean has a prolific food scene too. Upscale restaurants, thriving beach shacks and swanky 5 star hotels happily cater to herbivores with healthy, hearty and indulgent offerings. So vegetarians in Seychelles don't have to settle for a pyramid of mashed potato, wedges of tofu with consistency and flavour of makeup sponges, plain pasta or melted cheese on sad bread.
Glocal with a local heart
Creole cuisine of Seychelles is as scintillating as it is unique. The African, Indian and Chinese influence turns the island food into an artful blending of sweet, sour, salty and spicy. The French influence has led to the use of parsley and thyme, infusing a distinguishing culinary twist to the dishes. This combined with super fresh ingredients straight from a garden and served with French flair makes creole cuisine unforgettable. "If we enter into the deep culture of creole cuisine, there is a multiple of dishes that are vegan and vegetarian. The best part is the freshness. Seychellois use all the natural food ingredients the island has to offer," says Manuel Carbone, Executive Sous Chef, Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort and Spa.
Locally grown breadfruit, raw bananas, cassava, over 10 varieties of eggplant and other seasonal vegetables often find their way into curries. Rice is a staple but the island nation is also known for some of the best vegetarian wood fired pizzas. Young coconuts and all kinds of fruits including jackfruit, mango, banana (23 varieties), star fruit, papaya, passion fruit and golden apple are easily found everywhere on the island.
Vegetarians in Seychelles can look forward to some amazing dishes including:
This mouthwatering dish and its various avatars features in almost every restaurant menu. Similar to the Indian curry (think of it as a veg kadhai or a milder version of veg Kolhapuri) it beautifully balances a melange of vegetables with a blend of garlic, onion, chilies, ginger, black pepper and cinnamon. The use of fresh coconut milk adds a velvety smoothness to the dish. The most common vegetables added to the curry are sweet potatoes, eggplant and carrots. Each chef has their own version of the dish and is often served with rice and salad. Those looking to raise the spice levels can ask for the lasos piman (chili sauce). This fiery accompaniment can instantly jazz up the most boring meals.
Seychelles has a wide variety of snacks eaten at teatime. The most popular of these is the deliciously spicy Gateau Piment also nicknamed chili cake. This deep fried traditional Seychellois snack made with red split lentils, garlic, chopped onions and lots of chilies is ideal to take to beach picnics or as accompaniment to a cold SeyBrew a locally brewed beer. These are sometimes served with a dip made of green mangoes and chilies. Just stuff some chili cakes between fresh bread to make a delicious sandwich (something like a vada pav). Another snack that's everywhere in Seychelles is the breadfruit chips. The lightly salted fried chips are the staple munching snack of the island people. Grab a packet while you are sightseeing around the island. Light and fluffy banana fritters are also an immensely popular snack.
Salads are an integral part of creole cuisine. The sweet and sour pineapple salad is a typical creole salad eaten with meals. But the king of all salads is definitely the Salade de Palmiste a Seychellois culinary delicacy that features heart of palms as the main ingredient. This gourmet item is mixed with green mangoes, coconuts, avocados, green tomatoes, bell peppers, coriander and mint and tossed in a sweet and sour dressing based on ginger and lime. Palm heart is the inner core of certain palm tree species and tastes similar to an artichoke. This salad is often called millionaire's salad because the removal of palm hearts is quite labourious and involves cutting down whole palm trees. The Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort and Spa is the best place to sample this unique delicacy.
Tongue tickling Satini (chutney)
While we Indians are no strangers to chutneys the ones in Seychelles are a totally different ballgame and there is an ample number of these to keep you going. An interesting one is the Satini Brenzel a chutney made by steaming or charring eggplant until soft, mashing it with a fork and tossing it in hot oil with sliced onion, chilies, salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon. Not just vegetables but freshly grated raw fruits such as papaya, mangoes or golden apples are also mixed with spices and onions to make satini. The non-vegetarian version is made with dried or fresh fish.
Most meals in Seychelles end with Ladob, a delectable dessert made with either bananas or sweet potato and coconut milk. The fruit is cooked in coconut milk and sugar and flavoured with nutmeg, cinnamon and fresh vanilla. Deliciously soft and so creamy that you will definitely ask for a second serving. The coconut nougat is another much loved dessert in Seychelles. And not without reason. Who wouldn't love a wonderfully delightful candy made of coarsely-grated coconut, loads of caramalised sugar and fresh vanilla!
Bookmark these restaurants in Seychelles
Café des Arts Restaurant in Praslin has the best beachside setting for amazing wraps and salads.
Craving vegetarian Indian meals? Nayopi in Mahe run by Nayan and Gopi Dubasia is an excellent option. The Swaminarayan Thali is a must try as also the paneer butter masala and desserts like gajjar ka halwa, malai chum chum, kesari ras malai.
Pizzeria at Gregoire's in La Digue serves amazingly smoky wood fired pizza. Reasonably priced.
La Grande Maison in Mahe is an excellent vegetarian-friendly restaurant with a variety of French, European, Cajun and creole dishes. They also have gluten-free and vegan options. There's live music from 8pm on some evenings.
Looking for great vegetarian dishes with a side of stunning views? Snack Bellevue perched on a hill in La Digue is your best bet. Feast on delectable vegetable curry, crispy breadfruit fries and yummy ice-creams while gawking at the beautiful views of the island.
Mahek at Coral Strand Hotel, Mahe serves delicious Indian food with a wide range of vegetarian and Jain options. Don't miss the onion kaju pakodas, paneer tawa masala, nizami biryani and pudina paratha....