A falafel-like Mauritian street food snack
These crunchy, spicy lentil balls—similar to falafel or Indian ʻvadaʼ—are one of the most popular street food snacks, or ʻgajacksʼ, in Mauritius. Yellow split peas are soaked in water overnight, so they plump up and are easier to crush. They are then spiked with plenty of green chillies and fresh coriander before being rolled into small balls and deep fried. Eat them straight away, alongside other snacks like samosas, dunked into coriander green chilli chutney or, like the locals do, stuffed into crusty baguettes.
200g yellow split peas
3 spring onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped coriander
2-3 green chillies, finely chopped
1 litre vegetable oil, for deep frying
Place the yellow split peas in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Leave to sit overnight and soak. The peas should have puffed up slightly and the water reduced by the next morning.
Drain them well and tip into a food processor. Blitz until the peas are a coarse paste and clump together. Tip the crushed peas into a large mixing bowl and add all the other ingredients, apart from the oil, along with 1 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper. Combine well with a spoon.
Take 1 tbsp mixture in your hands and, pressing firmly, form into a ball shape (about the size of a golf ball). Each will weigh around 25g and you should get 25 balls. Repeat with the remaining mixture and place them all on a plate ready to be fried.
Pour the vegetable oil into a deep, heavy-based saucepan or deep fat fryer and heat to 180C. You can tell when the oil is the right temperature by dropping a small cube of bread into the oil. If it browns evenly in 30 secs, then it is ready. When the oil is hot enough, carefully drop in the balls (about 4-5 at a time, to prevent overcrowding in the pan). The fritters should sizzle in the oil.
Using a fork or a slotted spoon, gently move them around so they colour evenly. It will take 2 mins until they are golden brown and cooked throughout. If they brown too quickly, reduce the heat slightly to make sure they cook inside.
Drain on a wire rack with kitchen paper underneath to catch any excess oil. Serve with coriander green chilli chutney or crushed into a crusty white baguette.
Recipe: Selina Periampillai
Image: Yuki Sugiura