There is no better way to discover Zanzibar than by trying the local dishes. Known as the Spice Island, Zanzibar offers a wide variety of spices, extracts, herbs and seasoning assortments, and these are what make the Zanzibari cuisine unique. The locals spice their meals to create the perfect flavour, aroma and colour. With an eclectic combination of the Swahili, Indian and Arabian influences, the Zanzibari food will take you on an unforgettable culinary journey. Check out these 10 dishes for distinctive Zanzibari flavours, packed with heart and soul.
1. Coconut Bean Soup
Zanzibar has an abundance of coconuts and fresh seafood, and one of the most regularly, enjoyed dishes on the island is the coconut bean soup. Coconut Bean Soup is prepared from coconut milk and shredded coconut, blended with tomatoes and kidney beans, and then seasoned with pepper, spices and salt. The dish is rich in nutrient and perfect for vegetarians. It’s sumptuous and loved by both locals and foreigners, and it will definitely be one of your most unforgettable meals on the island.
2. Date Nut Bread
A day without date nut bread in Zanzibar is not complete. The first time you taste this bread may be the day you’ll give up other types of bread. It is the unofficial bread of Zanzibar, it is nutritious and delicious. The Date Nut Bread is made from pitted dates that are coarsely chopped and chopped walnuts. It is the choice of everyone who wants to have something exotic for breakfast.
Ugali is the most common staple dish in East Africa and must-try meal in Zanzibar. It is difficult to compare this meal made from maize flour and water to any meal, but we can say it is a cross between mashed potatoes and polenta. It is dough-like in nature and can be eaten by breaking it and mashing it like a ball before it is dipped into a saucy dish. You can eat it with a local soup called Mchuzi or with Nyama Choma, grilled meat.
4. Mchuzi wa pweza (Octopus Curry)
Octopus is one of the favourite seafood you will find at the luxury hotels and street food stalls. The octopus is prepared in a combination of spices like coriander, turmeric, and then, simmered in thick creamy coconut gravy. Once you get used to Octopus Curry, it is difficult to do without it. There’s no way you can leave Zanzibar without trying this stylish meal.
5. Ndizi Kaanga – Fried Plantain
Ndizi Kaanga is a popular meal in Zanzibar, can be used as a snack or side dish served along a meal. It’s the locals’ favourite snack, delicious and nutritious. The plantains are usually the unsweetened ones, but it can be prepared by adding a pinch of sugar before frying it to draw out the sweetness in it. Some locals grill the plantains instead of frying; the grilled ones are usually sprinkled with salt and served with Kachumbari.
6. Biryani ya Zanzibar
Biryani may be a well-known dish around the Middle East and South Asia; it’s also a popular meal in Zanzibar. The rice is prepared in Zanzibar style, with a variety of spices and blended with fish curry or meat. The curry dishes and rice are cooked separately before they are combined to give you a complete dish. You can add beef or goat meat to Biryani.
7. Zanzibar Spice Pilau Rice
The aroma of Pilau rice will hit you from a distance. It is one of the dishes you will find in fancy restaurants and local eateries. Pilau Rice is different from biryani because everything is cooked together. It is more spice flavoured and drier than biryani.
8. Wali Na Maharage
Wali Na Maharage is an ultimate dish of rice and beans served with vegetables, fish or meat. This traditional Zanzibar meal is delicious and decadent. The rice is cooked with oil or coconut milk to give to a creamy flavour, the beans is the typical Tanzanian red beans are also cooked till they are mushy. The meal is usually seasoned with a variety of spices including cinnamon, cumin, cloves, pepper and cardamom.
9. Supu Ya Ndizi (Plantain Soup)
Locally known as Mtori, Supu ya ndizi is a traditional plantain-based dish cooked in chicken broth. The plantain is pounded to paste before cooked in the broth, and then seasoned with salt and pepper. This mouth-watering and savoury soup is served with roti, rice, chapati or bread.
10. Zanzibar pizza
Zanzibar pizza is a must-try while visiting the island, it is one of the most popular street foods and it doesn’t really look like a typical Italian pizza. It’s a traditional island favourite prepared with a mix of egg, mayo, meat, and veggies, wrapped in the dough before frying. You’ll find the pizza at the Forodhani night market or on the street in Stone Town.
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