Reunion Island / Travel

A tale of chilli paste and coconut sorbet

14 Sep ’15

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Reunion Island has a long culinary tradition of having fresh chilli paste, called ‘piment’, with every lunch and dinner. Sometimes equating to ‘vegetable explosive in oil’ it will make your head explode if you are not accustomed to spicy food (claims have be made that some batches could power a small car…) but a real delight for the strong-mouthed out there.

Last time I returned to Reunion, to visit my family, we ran out of piment but, with the Friday markets (also on Saturdays) around the corner I decided to take a stroll down to replenish our supply and indulge in a bit of photography. It’s no surprise that travel guides direct you to local markets whenever they can. It is a great way to immerse yourself in the culture, talk to the locals, see what food they eat, try to not offend anyone while mispronouncing the three sentences you learnt from your lonely planet guide the day before. I’ll admit this doesn’t happen to me in Reunion because I speak french which is what most people speak alongside the local language called Creole, but I have definitively found myself in funny situations while travelling in places with a foreign language!…

What does all this have to do with the title of this story? Well, on my way to one of the piment stands I passed by the coconut sorbet stall! I had to stop for two reasons. First, I love coconut sorbet and secondly, I loved the rustic machine this cold-goods-artisan was using and wanted to photograph it.

travel photography reunion island 1O9A2590

Below are some of the incredibly varied fruit stalls you can find at these markets. Dragon fruits are great in smoothies! I haven’t seen it done in Reunion Island but it is quite common around Malaysia and easy enough to do yourself.

fruit markets reunion island 1O9A2631

fruit markets reunion island 1O9A2634markets reunion island 1O9A2626

I finally reach my destination, these are jars of pure chilli goodness. They come in various flavors including the best seller, chilli-lime. The yellow ones on the right are acars (‘achard’ in french), and are usually pickled vegetable but can be as spicy as chilli sometimes.

chilli reunion island 1O9A2581

Once I’d picked up some chilli I passed by the back of one of the fruit stalls that was preparing fresh fruit boxes and thought it would be a great note to finish on!

markets reunion island 1O9A2641

Moral of the story, if you need to replenish you piment stocks take your camera with you as markets are one of the best places to take travel portraits and lifestyle scenes. Make sure you come with an empty stomach so you can sample the delicious local food and an empty memory card for all those photos you will take. 🙂

– Travel tips –

If you visit Reunion Island the markets are called ‘Marches Forains de Saint-Paul’ and are located here:

It is best to park wherever you can find a spot in St-Paul and walk to the markets since the streets are small and on market days there can be a fair bit of traffic jam.

Here is a selection of the articles I wrote about Reunion Island previously:



I am a nature photographer specialising in wildlife photography. I have a special passion for this type of photography which comes from my background as an ecologist & conservation biologist.

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.