A Taste Of The Cuisine Of Zanzibar And Tanzania

A Taste Of The Cuisine Of Zanzibar And Tanzania



A question often asked is, “what type of​ traditional food should we expect when we get to​ Zanzibar?” Below is​ a​ small selection of​ what you may be offered. These examples of​ local dishes are eaten by the​ local people of​ both Zanzibar and​ Tanzania.

The original inhabitants of​ the​ Zanzibar Islands were African fishermen, who lived in​ villages scattered throughout the​ fifty or​ so Islands that make up the​ archipelago of​ Zanzibar. They survived on a​ diet mainly consisting of​ fresh seafood gleaned from the​ warm waters of​ the​ Indian Ocean surrounding these islands.

The diet of​ the​ local people went through a​ fundamental change in​ the​ ninth century with the​ arrival of​ the​ Persian and​ Arab traders. These traders built settlements along the​ coast of​ Tanzania and​ on the​ Zanzibar islands. in​ time these settlers integrated themselves into the​ African societies and​ left a​ wonderful legacy with their food. These settlers brought coconut palms, mango trees, citrus fruits, rice and​ all the​ spices we now associate with Zanzibar. Spiced pilau rice, one of​ the​ island's most common and​ delicious dishes cooked with coconut, nuts, and​ spices, is​ of​ Arab origin.

Pilau rice is​ the​ most traditional dish in​ Zanzibar which I have eaten at​ weddings, funerals and​ holidays. Sometimes when I have ordered this dish at​ a​ local restaurant I am told the​ order must be placed by how many kilos of​ rice I wanted them to​ cook. This spicy rice comes in​ a​ giant copper hour-glass shaped pilau pan. the​ best way to​ enjoy this dish is​ to​ sit in​ a​ circle around a​ large platter piled high with pilau, remembering, always, to​ use the​ right hand, and​ eat communally from the​ pot. This togetherness makes the​ meal even more of​ a​ social occasion, since not only do you get to​ spend time with friends gossiping and​ eating, but no one has to​ wash up.

My favorite accompaniment with this dish is​ a​ salad of​ slice onions placed in​ a​ shallow dish and​ marinated, for​ at​ least one hour, in​ lime juice, sliced chilies and​ sugar. This is​ served with thinly sliced tomato and​ cucumber and​ topped with chopped, fresh coriander.

The stiff porridge made from maze flour has many names throughout Africa and​ here in​ Zanzibar it​ is​ named Ugali. the​ maze flour is​ cooked with water into a​ stiff porridge, which is​ hard work. This is​ a​ staple diet for​ many Tanzanian's. it​ is​ eaten with your right hand and​ squashed into a​ ball, then pushing your thumb into the​ middle of​ the​ ball you make a​ spoon of​ the​ ugali ball and​ eat it​ along with the​ food scooped into the​ hole. This is​ especially nice with Mchicha. (see below)

Another favorite dish is​ sorpotel. the​ first time I tried sorpotel the​ chef refused to​ tell me what it​ was until after I had eaten it. This is​ because it​ is​ a​ stew of​ beef tongue, heart, liver and​ pork. the​ meat was so tender it​ melted in​ my mouth. it​ has a​ spicy kick to​ it​ but also a​ complex flavor that is​ unique from any curry or​ masala. if​ you are ever in​ Zanzibar, be sure to​ stop in​ CHIT CHAT and​ order the​ Sorpotel

Chips-my-eye, [Chips ], is​ a​ traditional dish here in​ Tanzania. it​ is​ egg and​ chips, but not your north of​ England two fried eggs and​ a​ side order of​ chips. it​ is​ a​ chip omelet. Chips are placed into a​ shallow frying pan and​ as​ they sizzle away two beaten eggs are poured over the​ top. This is​ then cooked into a​ solid omelet, stuffed with chips, and​ very nice it​ is​ too. it​ is​ not so healthy but give it​ a​ try when you visit Tanzania. it​ is​ far nicer than it​ sounds.

Mchicha is​ the​ champagne of​ the​ many Tanzanian types of​ spinach. Some of​ them require a​ little longer to​ cook than the​ western varieties but they all have an​ excellent taste ranging from the​ very bitter to​ the​ sweet. Mchicha is​ one of​ the​ most popular spinaches and​ has small oval leaves and​ thin stems that are very good with Ugali.

Most hotels are now serving a​ selection of​ traditional dishes. However, if​ you find yourself on the​ coast of​ Tanzania or​ in​ Zanzibar – speak to​ the​ local people and​ see where they eat.




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