Beyond the fresh baguettes, croissants, pains au chocolat, and palmiers, there was definitely a lot of France in French Guiana when it came to cuisine, mixed with the local flavor of spice and tropical fruits. We don't frequent restaurants all that often, but eating out is part of the experience, so we felt obligated.
Moules frites is the the national dish of Belgium, but very popular here. We tried it at Le Mombari, a local, popular restaurant in Saint-Laurent and then again while we were in Cayenne. They serve a kilo of mussels in a marmite (black kettle) with a large plate of frites (French fries) on the side. We found a kilo was plenty enough for two to share.
The traditional way to enjoy mussels is to use the empty mussel shell from the first one you eat as pincers to extract the subsequent mussels. Served with cold white wine, and French bread to soak up the delicious, creamy broth, it was really a feast for the palate.
I checked out several recipes on-line for preparing the mussels. Here's the one I thought most closely resembled what we had.
- 2 tablespoons (30g) butter
- 1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
- pinch of salt
- 1.5 cups (375ml) dry white wine
- 2 tbsp (8g) fresh parsley
- 2 pounds (1kg) mussels
- 1/4c heavy cream
- Plus 750ml (1 bottle) of chilled, dry white wine … for the cook as she's preparing the meal
- Cook shallots and garlic in butter till translucent.
- Add wine and bring to a boil.
- Add cream, salt and parsley and stir gently, then slowly add mussels, stirring gently once again.
- Cover and simmer for 5-7 minutes till all mussel shells open.
- Serve with bread.
A couple of other French culinary finds …
Pain perdu – We call it French toast. It's made here with leftover baguettes. Literally, “lost bread” because a day-old baguette is … well, a day-old baguette. It's stale and dry until you dip it in an egg and milk mixture, with a little sugar and nutmeg and fry it up. Oooh, la, la.
Jamais gouté - a fish caught specifically in the Maroni by Amerindian people which translates literally to “never tasted” and unfortunately, we never did get a chance to taste it. Next time maybe?