Staples: Rice, maize, goat, chicken, mutton, curries, fish,octopus, sugar cane and tea
Tastes: Zanzibar is the island of spice, everything is pepped up with ginger, cloves, chilli and hot tastes
Dining Suggestion: Why not try a hot octopus curry with pilau rice followed by a refreshing spicy ice cream?
Best dish: try the nightly food market in Zanzibar Town, opposite the Old Fort
The pilau rice cooking technique is found throughout the Middle East and West Asia and was spread through Africa by the Arabs and later brought to America by the slaves. Traditionally it is rice, vegetable and meat cooked in a seasoned broth.
To make Pilau rice Tanzanian style, boil a spicy stock mixture of pepper, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, cardamon, garlic and ginger with staples of meat, mixed vegetables or dried fruit. Cook with meat on the bone to impart even more flavor to the rice. Bring a touch of east Africa to your kitchen by adding thinly sliced coconut or coconut flakes and green bananas. Don’t worry, these unripe bananas aren’t sweet at all. In fact, they taste a bit like potatoes.
Graze to your heart’s content
At the nightly food stalls at Jamituru (also known as Forodhani Gardens) in Zanzibar Town, you can eat your way around the Indian sub-continent, the Middle East and even Zanzibar. Meateaters, seafood-lovers and vegetarians alike are all catered for.
Zanzibar pizza is the local specialty. These are small dough discs cooked quickly on brazier with onions, egg and chillis added. Totally unlike an Italian pizza, it makes a delicious and different treat.
A close relative of the potato, cassava is cooked in its skin to retain its moisture and is topped with a squeeze of lemon and a dusting of chilli powder. Jacket potatoes never tasted this good. Unlike the humble spud, the tough yucca skin isn’t edible.
Indian and Arab influences
Try an Indian kachori, a spicy crushed pea fritter, plus a skewer of tuna or mutton kebab. Wash it all down with sugar cane juice complete with a twist of Zanzibari lemon and the invigorating tang of ginger.
Spicy ice cream
If you have got any room left for dessert, check out the local fayre of ice cream. It’s no ordinary ice-cream – chocolate and vanilla are not on the menu in Zanzibar. Being the Spice Islands this means cloves, lemon grass and ginger, the spicier the better.
Exotic fruits & spices
For less than the price of a soda, quench your thirst with a juicy coconut in Dar es Salaam or Zanzibar. Be sure to sample jackfruit as part of a visit to Zanzibari spice plantation. Jackfruit is like a superior smoothie with overtones of pineapple, peach and banana.
On the tour, the fragrance of cinnamon, saffron, cloves, nutmeg, and cardamon wafts on the breeze. If you like it hot you’ve come to the right place. You may also pass trees with prickly durians. If you don’t see durians, you’re sure to smell their open sewer aroma. Sweet, sour and with even a hint of saltiness all at the same time, the flesh has a creamy texture. Eat them if you dare!
Main image: Barbecued beef cubes and seafood in Forodhani Gardens, Zanzibar by Muhammad Mahdi Karim
By Nadeem Saeed