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12 of Reunion Island’s best culinary specialities

Tourists arriving from South Africa no longer need a French visa to visit Reunion. This change has moved the little French island to the top of my list of countries to visit. Besides an active volcano and some of the most amazing canyons I’ve ever seen, the culinary specialities of Reunion Island were also highlights of my holiday. If you’re concerned about the conversion of rands to euros, don’t worry, you can avoid the gourmet restaurants and enjoy low-priced meals.

Baguettes and croissants

Go ahead and enjoy your croissant dipped in black coffee… Pierre Dukan can get his coat, this is not the place for him !


I tried a salted caramel one in Saint-Pierre. I’ve never been the same since. It changed my life.


This magnificent, juicy, star-shaped fruit has an acidic taste of grapefruit and plum. To die for !


Practically all the island’s cheese is imported. Once you’ve spent the equivalent of 30 rands (2 euros) for a portion of nice runny French camembert, you’ll truly believe that aeroplanes are blessed by the gods.

Dodo beer

This local beer brewed at the Bourbon Breweries displays the dodo, for obvious reasons. It is sold in small bottles shaped like cough-syrup bottles and is the ideal drink to enjoy after an adventure such as jumping from a height of 12 metres into the Rivière des Roches. (If you’re an adventurer at heart and you’re visiting Reunion Island, check out Run’Aventures in Saint-Benoît. You won’t be disappointed !)

Chayote gratin

The chayote is a vegetable originating in South Africa. It belongs to the cucurbitaceae family and has the same texture as the courgette. You’ll find it all over the island, but it tastes even better when it is braised and served in a gratin with white sauce and cheese.

Poulet bitume” (tarmac chicken)

You’ll notice makeshift barbecues along the roadside selling deliciously crispy chickens to take away or eat on the spot. For this reason, they are also known as “poulet pétrole” (petroleum chicken) or “poulet la route” (road chicken). 


This is one of the rare crops cultivated on the island. It provides us with a 10th item for this list and is also used for its bagasse (sugarcane pulp), an eco-friendly biofuel.


A deliciously spicy sauce served on the side with most dishes. It is slightly bitter, lightly salted, and very spicy. It can be made from many different ingredients (mango, lemon or tomato) and is similar to lime achar.


The first time I tried ti’punch, I thought the barman had got the recipe wrong. Despite my South-African culture, I’m not used to drinking neat rum. I don’t know if the cocktail became more diluted or if I just got used to it but, by the end of the week, honestly, I was drinking my ti’punch as if it were ti’lait.

“Rhum arrangé”

This is rum infused with pineapple, lychee, cinnamon or even orchid flowers, and it’s usually enjoyed as an after-dinner drink. Be warned, it’s dangerously delicious!


For my very first dinner in Reunion Island, at the Maison de la Vanille, I ate swordfish with vanilla sauce. You might say that was the start of a long and beautiful friendship. Vanilla deserves a more prominent place in my kitchen, right up there with the salt and olive oil, ready to be added to both sweet and savoury dishes that will delight my tastebuds forever! Amen.