“Pistas sale! Pistas bwi!” (Salted pistachios! Boiled pistachios!) These words are chanted at the top of the voice by our “pistas” vendors across the island. By way of introduction, it is important to note that for Mauritians, a pistachio is actually a peanut! So, our famous “pistas”, very popular in Mauritius, are enjoyed in different ways and at any time of the day. Here, at the movies, popcorns are easily replaced by our “pistas”. Moreover, there is this Mauritian saying: “Manz pistas, get sinema”, which means to be the witness without intervening!
Our “pistas” are sometimes sold in small trunks on the street, and also at markets or in shopping centers. In fact, they are found all over the island. Merchants often get on board buses at bus stations to sell their peanuts, and this allows people leaving the office to enjoy the long ride back home. You may also watch some vendors who do roast the peanuts in a large steel pot filled with sand. While roasted peanuts are very common, boiled ones are the most popular in Mauritius. They are simply cooked in salted water. You need not be surprised to find people queuing up in front of our “pistas” vendors.
There are all sorts of peanuts: sweet, caramelized, roasted, spiced with onions and chili, salted, boiled… In earlier days, “pistas” were prepared at home on Thursday evenings to be enjoyed while watching the Indian film broadcasted each week. You will also find in Mauritian cuisine our famous peanuts namely the well-known “satini pistas” which is a “rougaille” made from roasted peanuts with tomatoes, onions, and spices, mixed into a homogeneous paste and which accompanies our faratas and our dhal puris or which are simply eaten with bread.
One can also find the ”gato pistas” at Rodrigues Island, which is in fact a delicious caramelized roasted peanuts nougat – a sheer delight that we often bring back home when we visit. In Mauritius, in addition to being an original Mauritian snack, our peanuts are also served when entertaining guests as an aperitif or for a meal in Mauritius.
Don’t forget to buy some on your next visit!