I’ve eaten a lot of dumplings in my life. I’m not proud of it, but I’m not, not proud of it either. Not once when eating dumplings have I ever considered putting them on a sandwich. A problem with my imagination perhaps. Luckily for me, for you, for humankind, the people of Reunion do not have this problem with imagination.
Reunion, a small island in the Indian ocean, is unapologetically French. Their currency is the Euro, the official Language is French, they are governed by French laws, and they even had the same maillot jeune protests. The people, however, are a mixture of African, Indian, Malagasy, Chinese and European. Like all good cultural melting pots, elements of all the cultures have mixed together to create new and often delicious traditions.
Enter the bouchon gratine. A French baguette, filled with pork dumplings (locally known as bouchons), covered with cheese, then grilled. A sandwich which could not have been invented anywhere else in the world.
Gratines are sold all over the island, and the bouchon gratine is the most popular variation. We decide to try ours at an outdoor market with half a dozen stall adjacent to the beach all selling the same menu. After confirming that all the stalls are indeed the same, we select a stall at random and order a bouchon gratine. The woman goes to work assembling the sandwich, suggesting mayonnaise for sauce, which I quickly agree to. After a few minutes under the grill, the sandwich is wrapped up and finally mine.
A crunchy, cheesy, beige roll. Every ingredient is beige. It’s so very beige. I am not generally a fan of eating beige food. Undeterred, I take a bite. The sandwich is dense, and somewhat flavourless. The dumplings here don’t have much spice in them, which means the mayonnaise gives the sandwich most of its flavour. The dumplings, however, have a thin skin, which mean it’s less carb heavy than it might otherwise had been.
This dense sandwich is a lot of food to eat. I only manage around 80% of it, despite being practically famished when I ordered it and trying my darndest to make sure I finished it.
So should you try a bouchon gratine on your next visit to Reunion Island? Absolutely! Just don’t eat one everyday unless you plan on returning home with a lot of excess baggage on your body.