With lots of different cravings in mind (Briyani, dhall purri, roti), I make my way to the food counter. Sure enough, there’s vegetarian roti. I order two pairs sans chilli.
While the lovely lady heats up the rotis, my eyes survey the rest of the food offerings. I’m tempted. Lamb curry. Chicken curry. Chicken tandoori. Pulses. I want to eat a bit of everything. Either I’ve been out of Mauritius for far too long or I am simply ravenous tonight.
Chilli or no chilli – let’s check this first
“Hmm chicken liver! Looks delicious, is it hot?” The Creole word I used is “for” which she clearly understands I’m not referring to the temperature of the food, but if there’s any chilli in it. Because of course, I was adamant that I don’t eat any chilli, preceding my rotis order.
The lady hands me my rotis and grabs a ladle, ready to dish up anything else my famished self so desires.
“Nooooooo. Not at all,” the lady answers, shaking her head as if it would be ludicrous to have chilli in this dish.
“OK, so there’s absolutely no chilli in this, right?”
“Nooooooo, not at all,” the lady smiles reassuringly.
Of course, I’m worried about nothing. Ah, silly Béa. Just take the chicken livers already and enjoy it. Why do you always assume there is chilli in everything you eat here in Mauritius?!
As she scoops up a fat portion of chicken livers into a container, I notice some stringy greens. Are these green beans? Or finely sliced green peppers? My heart sinks. I know what they are, but somehow if I ask her and she tells me they are not, then they are not. It cannot be. Please let it not be…
“Uh, what are those?”
“Chillies,” the lady answers.
You are joking! Looking at her, it is clear that it is not a joke. It is a fact. There are chilies with the chicken livers.
My eyes definitely widen as I stare at her face in disbelief. Haven’t I just double-checked if there were any chilli in that dish?
As if reading my mind, she patiently explains: “They are chillies, but the chicken livers are not hot. The chillies have only been cooked along just like that. Not to make it hot.”
For what then? For a splash of colour to make the brownness of the chicken livers ‘pop’? For a dash of green as a symbol of the sugar cane fields that abound the island?
She shoves another spoonful of chicken livers into the container, then hands it to me with the same reassuring smile. By now, I don’t trust her.
But I already have a container full of chicken livers and green chillies in my hands, so what other alternative do I have but to smile back and say thank you?
My boyfriend is a lucky man. He gets to eat his order of the Tandoori chicken and my chicken livers.
Do you enjoy eating chilli? Have you ever experienced something similar when you do not want any hot food only to find that what you are eating has chillies in?