Beignets are one of the most popular starters in Creole cuisine.
Brought to Mauritius by the French, beignets made their way into the creole cuisine and became a staple starter that you are offered in almost every restaurant and house. In classic French cuisine, this pastry is made from leavened dough (either by brewer’s yeast or eggs) that is deep fried either as is, or used as a casing to cover meats, vegetables or fruits (kind of like a dense batter). Beignet can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes.
In creole cuisine, and in both the sweet and savoury versions, beignet is usually made as a casing for a filling. The filling can be anything, however more traditionally encasing a seafood or vegetable filling for savoury options and bananas or plantains for the sweet. The sweet filled beignets are then dressed with heaps of icing sugar, while the savoury ones are usually served with a choice of green chili dip, sweet chili sauce or coconut chutney (see the video below to see how the Creole coconut chutney is made).
With that said, the Mauritians have 2 versions of the beignet:
- One that is dense and creates a thin, crunchy layer over the filling (see the first photo below: Eggplant Beignet),
- Another one that is thick and creates a smooth dense layer over the filling (see the second photo: Shrimp Beignet).
While each one has its unique eating experience, both versions are delicious. In the creole version instead of the fresh brewer’s yeast, the cooks use cold beer and have therefore omitted the milk from the recipe. This makes it easy to replicate even if you do not have access to brewer’s yeast.
Beignets are an excellent way to start a meal as the heat from the dipping sauce against the comfort of the dough matched with the slight crunch from the filling is a very delectable way to kick start your appetite. Not only that, but they are also a fabulous option for a pass around at cocktail parties. Line them up on a long plate, sprinkle with finely chopped parsley, place an edible flower at one end of the plate and a bowl of sweet chili dip on the other end. Voila, you have yourself an elegant and delicious pass around cocktail nibble, Mauritius style. It is super easy to make, very delicious and will impress even the fussiest eaters.