The Seychelles islands are known for a number of things. Right at the top of most peoples’ list would be the beaches, what with their turquoise warm waters, brilliant white sands, palm trees and, well, you’ve got the idea.
Another thing most visitors to these islands fall in love with is the Seychelles food. And there’s good reason for that. From freshly caught fish, to locally grown fruit, from spicy curries to sweet fried bananas, there is something here for every taste bud and palate.
I am lucky enough to be part Seychellois, and have spent a significant part of my life on these wonderful islands. My granny and aunt both made some pretty spectacular traditional Creole dishes, and it was always a pleasure to dine in their kitchen.
Here, in no particular order, are some traditional Seychelles foods you should try out when you hit the islands!
Traditional Seychelles Food
1. Fresh grilled fish
The Seychelles is home to a countless number of tropical fish species, which local fisherman will sell to you, either from the market in Victoria, or by the side of the road fresh from the boat. Listen out for the sound of a conch shell being blown – the traditional sign that fish has just been brought ashore for sale.
One of the most popular ways to prepare a fish is over the hot coals of a BBQ, often fired by coconut husks to give a wonderful aroma and flavour to the fish.
Usually preparation of the fish is minimal – just some slits down the side into which garlic, ginger and chilli is stuffed – and then grilled to perfection. Barracuda in particular are excellent done in this style.
2. Salted fish
Salted fish, or Pwason Sale, as the locals call it, is less common today than it used to be, but it is still available if you know where to look. Again, the lack of refrigeration until well into the late 20th century meant that food preservation was a challenge, so to keep produce edible all sorts of preservation techniques were used, including pickling and salting.
Salted fish is pretty much what you would imagine it to be – fish is liberally covered in salt and then left to dry in the sun. When you want to cook it, you soak it for a while, drain some of the salt out, then use it as you would any other ingredient.
I’m not going to lie to you – this is what could be described as an acquired taste. The taste is both incredibly fishy and incredibly salty at the same time. If you’re into anchovies, you will probably be in heaven. If you hate anchovies.. well.. perhaps go for the curry.
There are a variety of ways that salted fish can be served, but the absolute classic has to be the Rougay. This is basically just a tomato and onion base with plenty of garlic, ginger and chilli, fried up, then served with rice. Another excellent option, which cuts through some of the salt, is to have it as a coconut curry.
3. Coconut Curry
When my Mum moved out to the Seychelles way back in the seventies, she started out her culinary adventures by asking my Dad how they cooked things. She relates that she soon gave up asking the question because the default answer was invariably curry.
And curry really is a dish that your average Seychellois adores. This could be something to do with the history of the islands – electricity arrived late – so spices were used as a preservative. Whatever the reason, curry, often based around masala spices, curry leaves, hot chillies and lots of freshly made coconut cream, is a staple.
The ingredients vary, back in the day bat and goat were key ingredients, although you may struggle to find those today. Instead, chicken and fish curries are likely to be on your plate, with Octopus Curry a local Seychelles speciality you should definitely try at least once.
Enjoy, but do watch out, because the Seychellois do like their curries hot!
An often overlooked dish, but a critical side component of a traditional Seychelles curry feast is the humble lentil. In Seychelles, red lentils are a popular staple, served as a side dish with many dishes. These are often cooked for a long time with garlic, onion and ginger, with the result being a fairly yellow paste.
This might not look hugely appetising, but it is very tasty. Definitely add some to your plate if you have the choice to do so!
5. Sausage Rougay
One of my all time favourite dishes is “sosis rougay”, or sausage rougay. This is a sausage based dish (as the name suggests) in a rich tomato and onion sauce, which usually also features garlic, ginger and chilli.
The secret to a fabulous sausage rougay though is the type of sausage. Ideally, this dish will be made with local coarse cut salted sausage. This is a little bit like a Tuscan sausage in texture, but a lot saltier, and gives the dish it’s signature flavour. Rougay can also have other ingredients – a salted fish rougay is another favourite Seychelles food of mine!
6. Anything with banana in
The Seychelles, at last count, is home to at least 23 different banana species. From tiny little sweet bananas, to giant plantains that need to be cooked, there is a banana size for everyone. And once you’ve tried a recently plucked banana you will wonder how you ever coped with the supermarket variety back home.
Bananas are used as a key ingredient in a number of dishes, most notably, desserts. Bananas fried with sugar and butter are a favourite of mine, resulting in a giant, sticky, toffee like mess. Bananas baked with coconut milk and sugar are another classic, the so called Banann ladob. You’ll also find them flambeed with rum or brandy, fried as chips, and of course, just served as they come. Delicious in every way!
Breadfruit is a remarkably versatile food ingredient, basically imagine it as a giant potato in terms of cooking flexibility. So you can boil it, bake it, mash it and fry it. It can even be cooked in coconut milk and sugar as a dessert option, and breadfruit “ladobe” is a classic Seychelles dessert.
In my opinion though, by far the best way to eat breadfruit is to just put it whole (they are fairly large), with the tough skin on, into the embers of your fire, surrounded by coconut husks, leave it for around 45 minutes, and when the skin is charred, crack it open to reveal the steaming creamy white flesh within.
Traditionally, you would then lather it with pork lard and salt and chow on down, but these days people find butter to be a more than acceptable substitute. And don’t forget the Creole saying – if you’ve eaten breadfruit in Seychelles, you are guaranteed to come back to the islands!
7. Smoked Fish Salad
As you would imagine, the Seychelles has a lot of fish! One popular and traditional way of preserving fish, particularly before the advent of refrigeration, was to smoke it. Smoked fish has a wonderful flavour, and it works particularly well in a cold salad.
This can be served with a variety of vegetables with a dressing, and the fish is usually a larger fish with darker meat, like swordfish, sailfish or tuna. It’s also popular to use unripe fruits such as mango or papaya in the salad, which adds a tangy zest to the dish.
8. Traditional “Satini”
In the Seychelles a “Satini” is a sort of salad, which consists of finely grated ingredients. This is commonly made with either unripe fruits, such as papaya or golden apple, and mixed with spices and onions. It can also have quite a lot of chilli in, so do beware.
Satini can also be made with fish, most commonly shark, and it will usually be yellowed with turmeric spices and look like finely ground meat. Ground coconut is another popular ingredient. In the image above, you can see papaya satini at the top of the shot, and lentils at the bottom.
9. Fresh Fruit
Being a tropical paradise, you would think that Seychelles would be blessed with oodles of fresh fruit. And you would be right! There’s all sorts of fresh fruit on offer, including mango, papaya, avocado, banana, starfruit, coconut, limes, grapefruit – the list goes on!
Fruit is easy to come buy and pretty cheap to boot, so this is a great way to snack through the day. Fruit is nearly always served as a breakfast item, but you won’t have much trouble finding it throughout your stay in the Seychelles.
10. Traditional Seychelles Snacks
Speaking of snacking, if you find yourself getting hungry, there are a number of traditional Seychelles snack foods that you should try. These can be bought at most corner stores or supermarkets quite easily and cheaply.
Three of the more popular snacks are banana chips, breadfruit chips and “molouk”. The former are deep-fried and salted snacks, much like potato chips (crisps if you’re British). The latter is basically deep fried bread dough.
Sure, none of those snack options are exactly healthy, but they sure are tasty! If you want a slightly healthier, not deep-fried option, coconut is a popular snack option too!
Where to eat Traditional Seychelles Creole Food
I’m very lucky, because I got to grow up in the Seychelles, and with family out there, I have had traditional Creole dishes cooked for me by people who have spent a lifetime cooking delicious Seychelles food.
Don’t despair though – as a visitor to the Seychelles, you have a number of options for trying traditional Creole food.
1. At a locally owned guesthouse
One good option we’ve found for eating locally made Seychelles food is at a locally owned guesthouse or self-catering property where the owners offers meals as an optional extra.
We stayed at two properties in the Seychelles, both self-catering, where we were able to order food for dinner. In both cases, this was absolutely delicious and definitely authentic.
The two properties we stayed at which offered this service were Villa Kordia on Mahe and Oceane Self Catering on La Digue. It’s definitely worth checking to see if the property you are staying at offers home cooked meals as an option, and reading through the reviews to see what other visitors have to say about the food.
2. At a Creole restaurant
Your next best option for a good Creole meal is to go to a restaurant that specialises in Creole food. Whilst there are many places to eat out in the Seychelles, you want to go somewhere that has made a name for itself as a good place to eat.
There are a number of restaurants that fit this bill. On Mahe, the most popular and longest established is Marie Antoinette. Found in the capital city of Victoria and situated in an old Creole house, this restaurant has been serving up traditional Creole meals for many years.
The menu is fixed, and you get a variety of smaller dishes, meaning you get to sample a variety of traditional Seychelles foods at a relatively inexpensive price. Reviews are a little mixed – our advice is to go earlier on in the seating times, to ensure you get the food when it has been freshly made. We really enjoyed our meal here when we went in April 2018.
If you like seafood, then you’ll find a nice restaurant on the beach front at Anse Lazio on Praslin – Bonbon Plume. Whilst this is a little on the pricey side, the basic Creole dishes like fish curry are reasonable priced, and the grilled fish we had here was some of the best we ate on our trip.
3. At your hotel
The majority of hotels you are likely to stay at will likely offer some form of Seychelles food as an option – with the quality and value varying from property to property.
Of course, there are some hotels where you’ll be served fabulous food, and others where it will be westernised beyond recognition. But hopefully, with the choices I’ve given you, you’ll still be able to find the traditional flavours of the Seychelles when you visit!
And that’s it for my guide to some of the best foods in the Seychelles that you have to eat when you visit these stunning islands. Stay tuned – we’ve got a number of posts about visiting the Seychelles in the pipeline to help you plan the perfect trip. In the meantime, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to let is know in the comments below!