What a funny little place in a small street in Grand Baie. If you are looking for the best ‘boulettes‘ in the north of the island: you must go to Ti’ Kouloir.
What are boulettes?!
Before reading about Ti Kouloir – you might want to know what ‘boulettes’ actually are. It is a traditional Chinese street food snack, a dumpling – inspired by dim sum, I suppose. Nowadays you’ll find them prepared still mainly by Chinese Mauritians, but also by Creol Mauritians. As the French word might give away, they are round (boule is ball) and the most common is the vegetable version.
The main type of dumpling is made of grated chayotes – a vegetable from the gourd family and are steamed and then served steaming hot as such ‘en salade‘ or in a broth – they can also be made with radish if chayotes are too expensive (they don’t taste as nice though!). There are a few different types of boulettes, all usually found together in the same pot, as on the picture above.
- The vegetable kind is called ‘Niouk yen‘ (they can be with a little bit of chicken as well) – you will not find this in any other country, it is a typical Mauritian street food – that you will either love and could eat everyday – or that you will not feel anything for;
- Another vegetable/chicken kind is the ‘Shao Mai’ – like the chinese Dim Sum, but with the Mauritian twist – also made on chayote,
- a fried smoked tofu, called Teokon – it can be stuffed with fish paste or just plain,
- fish balls,
- meat balls (it should be beef, but I have my reservations on that…) I have actually no idea the origin of the meat used, but I always have a few anyway.
My first experience!
First time I had these things was on a very hot, sticky and wet December day in 1998. I was on holiday with my then boyfriend in Mauritius – my first visit to the island. Boulettes happened to be his absolutely favourite snack back then (and I think they still are). We drove in torrential summer rain to Rose Hill, the town where he used to go to secondary school and he went to see his ‘marchand boulettes’ (aka the dumpling hawker) and came back with a burning hot plastic bag for me with 15 dumplings inside – a mixture of all of the above – with a hot-hot green chilli paste on top (the kind that gives you stomach cramps when not used to it!). Me, a Danish girl who was never allowed to eat with my fingers at the table – was sitting in a car eating out of a plastic bag. I loved it, instantly. The whole experience is so vivid to me, something I can remember as yesterday – the taste, the plastic bag, this exotic Chinese Mauritian guy introducing me to his intriguing country. My husband’s ‘marchand boulettes’ is still there (though he got himself a proper shop now), and a stop we never miss when in Rose Hill. For me, I still think they taste better out of a plastic bag, but that might be just me!
Le Ti Kouloir
Boulettes are very common is Port Louis and in the centre of the island. In the North of Mauritius however you need to look for them. So a few months back when a friend mentioned Ti Kouloir, literally ‘little corridor’, I knew I had to go. There is a reason why it is called the little corridor – the place is tiny, not really a restaurant, more of a snack place.
The place starts serving the dumplings at 12 noon and when I arrived people were already starting to queue, so the place is famous. They serve boulettes and mines frites – fried noodles (all types of different versions: veg, chicken, egg, meat…).
I just wanted a small snack so my bowl in small – but you have a mixture of the dumplings on the picture above: niouk yen, shao mai, meat ball and teokon. Depending on the places you might need a little soya sauce, but definitely you need some chilli paste – every dish in Mauritius is traditionally eaten with some kind of chilli paste.
They are open everyday for lunch (except Sunday). A dumpling is Rs8/piece (so you get 4 pieces for USD1). That’s as cheap as it gets! Ti Kouloir is located in a little street just behind the Coastal Road in Grand Baie and a 2 minute walk from Sunset Boulevard, the small shopping area in Grand Baie.