Thursday 11 September 2014

Reunion Island Recipes: Bouchons (Pork Dumplings) and Bonbons Piments (Chili Bites)

My dad is from Reunion Island, a French overseas department between Madagascar and Mauritius Island. The food there has been influenced by the influx of immigrants from all over the world between the 17th and 19th centuries. The local cuisines include Indian, Chinese, Malagasy and French influences, which results in an amazing variety of dishes, mostly spicy ones. I was brought up eating a mix of different cuisines from Reunion Island, France and Portugal (where my mum is from). You know me as French foodie because I'm from France but my palate is truly international and I’m so happy that my upbringing made me curious and adventurous about food in general.

A few months ago I was invited to Electric Picnic to give a demo about Reunion Island cooking and so I chose to demonstrate how to make bouchons, traditional pork dumplings loved by the people of Reunion Island. The ‘bouchons’ were introduced to Reunion by Chinese immigrants, they’re great appetisers and are also sold in food trucks all around Reunion Island. Everyone in my family is mad about them, they're truly delicious and easy to make. Bouchons have a signature flavour which comes from the zest of kaffir lime but as I was a little nervous I forgot to add it to my mix during my cooking demo... Oops, anyway, it's not a big deal (funny though) as some people prefer not to use it. By the way the only place in Dublin where I've seen kaffir limes (wrinkly looking limes) is the Asia Market on Drury Street. 

Another popular appetiser in Reunion Island which my dad used to make when I was a child was ‘bonbons piments’ (chili bites), they’re quite similar to falafels but a lot spicier. The ‘bonbons piments’ (chili bites) were introduced by those arriving from India to Reunion Island and are great snacks to enjoy with a cold beer.

Here are both recipes if you’d like give them a shot!

Bouchons (Traditional Reunion pork dumplings)


Wonton pastry (available in Asian supermarkets, defrost before use)
500g pork mince
Bunch of spring onions (chopped)
Zest of a kaffir lime (grated) 
1 tbs tapioca starch
5 small chillies (optional)
Soy sauce for dipping 


In a big bowl mix together the pork mince, spring onions, tapioca starch, kaffir lime zest, chilies, salt and pepper.
Make a little ball of the pork mix (about 1tsp) and place it on one sheet of wonton pastry and bring the 4 corners of the pastry together to close it in on itself. Hold lightly and press everything together to form a little ball.
Repeat until you have used up all the mix and sheets of pastry.
Cook the dumplings in a steamer for about 15 minutes.
Serve warm with soy sauce for dipping.

Bonbons piments (Chili bites)


500g dried butter beans
A few leaves of fresh coriander (chopped)
5 small green chillies (chopped)
Bunch of spring onions (chopped)
1 tsp of curcuma (turmeric powder)
1/2 tsp cumin 
fresh ginger
1 tsp salt
Vegetable oil


Soak the beans in water overnight (about 12 hours).
Drain the beans and peel off their skin.
Blend the beans until smooth.
Add the herbs, spices, salt and pepper to the beans and mix everything well.
Make little balls with the mix (slightly smaller than a golf ball) and flatten them to look like mini patties.
Heat vegetable oil in a deep pan (or deep fat fryer) and cook the chill bites for a few minutes (until golden brown) in the hot oil.
Drain and dry on kitchen paper before serving.