Crêperie Le Gall (Hell-bourg, Réunion, France)

Our second full day on Réunion had us setting out to check out on of the cooler geographic features of the island: the Cirques. Réunion was essentially formed by two volcanoes: the now-extinct Piton des Neiges, and the still active Piton de la Fournaise. For the former, the old volcanic caldera has collapsed and eroded over the last 100,000 years to form three sub-formations: the Cirque, each a very steep mountain valley. All of them are inhabiting, but only two of them, the Cirque de Salazie and the Cirque de Cilaos, are road-accessible (the Cirque de Mafate is accessible only on foot or by air). So we decided to check out the Cirque de Salazie, since it’s a pretty short drive from Saint-Denis.

The town of Hell-Bourg is located in the middle of the Cirque de Salazie, and the very rugged terrain makes this a splendidly beautiful French/Creole village located in the mountains. It’s a fairly quiet town, mostly with older Creole architecture, and primarily serves as a stepping-off point for the many hikers visiting the region (indeed, we basically returned to Hell-Bourg twice during our trip, once as hikers, and once driving through to see the forests of Belouve).

But after checking out the area, we started to become hungry for lunch, and we immediately found the cute little Crêperie Le Gall. As I mentioned a few posts back, there are times when it’s obvious that Réunion is a tropical island, and times when it appears to be a little version of mainland France, and the presence of many crêperies is a good example of the latter, with Crêperie Le Gall having the quaint little interior, large crêpe irons, and the basic sweet and savory menus that I’ve grown to accept from most any authentic crêperie.

But there was one little difference: being Réunion, this crêperie featured the local ingredients. Most of the dessert crêpes features the tropical fruits of the island (mango, pineapple, banana, …). But the savory crêpes did so as well, with the best example being the Ti Chouchou: ham, bechamel sauce, gruyere, and sliced poached chouchou. The chouchou (which, if you’ve seen it at all as an American, was likely called a chayote or a mirliton, and if Europeans, a Cristophene) is practically (and may in many cases actually be) a weed, with the long, 30 foot chouchou vines growing wild all over the island, particular in the lush valley of the Cirque de Salazie. Being a fan of the chouchou in it’s Louisiana Creole uses, I figured we give it a try here as well, and we soon found ourselves looking at a delicious pair of crêpes: one ham, and one chouchou.

These were seriously good crêpes: the crêpes themselves were the light and crispy buckwheat wafers that I’ve learned to appreciate from a good crêperie, since they are so hard to make myself. The fillings were both delicious, with the chouchou crêpe being the star: the lightly poached slices of chouchou lent a flavor and texture to the crepe that was approximately halfway between “potato” and “pear”, with just a bit of spiciness.

Additionally, the staff at Crêperie Le Gall was particularly friendly, especially when they found out we were American (unlike many places I’ve been where American tourists are disliked, in Réunion we were an extremely rare novelty, and people were truly pleased that we had sought out a place like Réunion for our vacation. The friendliness more than made up for the occasional language difficulties).

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