This year for Christmas, instead of buying myself something lavish, I decided to be very posh and take holiday with all the Euros and South Africans in Tanzania. It was amazing of course. Before I had left, I planned this really cool food-blog diary in my head. I figured I could take pictures of all my food and post tidbits while I was traveling and share with readers in semi-real time the joys of East African cooking. Of course that did not happen. If it wasn’t my terrible memory, it was my terrible camera that apparently takes the worst food pictures ever. Plus I sort of ate the same things over and over, not so exciting for frequent updating. So now, nearly a month later, I am finally ready to talk about some Swahili food.
My first stop was actually not anywhere in Africa, it was Turkey, where I spent a lovely 24 hour layover touring the city by foot. I saw all the mosques, ate a fish sandwich off of a boat in the Golden Horn and visited the bazaars. Last month I would have never recommended Turkish Airlines to anyone, ever. But today I am feeling much less brava and am remembering my four course meals in comfort class AND the hot washcloths before every meal. Oh! and my choice of French or Turkish wine, or both, let’s be real.
After my brief tour of Istanbul, I headed straight for Zanzibar. It is TZ’s premiere tropical island, with white sand beaches, the bluest water and soo much seafood. I ate it everyday, everywhere I went, every which way. Fried Lobster Tandoori, Coconut Prawn Curry, Crusted Red Snapper, Shrimp on a Stick, whatever…Zanzibar is known especially for its spices, so the dishes were flavorful and always served with rice, boiled potatoes, cassava, or “chips”-also known as soggy undercooked french fries. Chapati was also real big with the locals for every meal and in our Safari lunch boxes. Chapati, pictured below, consists of flour water and oil, fried into a delicious bowel-stopping treat.
You notice I don’t really talk about vegetables. Surprisingly I didn’t come across too many, even on the mainland. If I did they were cooked or fried. Salads and fresh veggies don’t exist there as a real side option. Sometimes you get lettuce and tomato, as seen above, as a topping; unless you’re at tourist restaurants, in which case you can find a little bit of everything. I was able to get my hands on some delicious fruit though. I washed all my meals down with passion fruit juice or coffee or Konyagi- who needs water with that line-up.
One of my very best friends lives in Arusha, TZ’s 3rd largest “city” teaming with locals and tourists alike. Now I had some fancy pants meals there- 4 courses comes out to maybe 15$ with tip (heavenly I know). But my friends couldn’t wait to take me to Chips Mayai- this local Swahili stand on the side of the road known for it’s 4am delicacies.
This is what getting wasted on Thursday night looks like in the wee hours of the morning before going home to bed for young and able Arushans. It’s the equivalent of a bacon wrapped hot-dog outside the Shortstop in Echo Parque. Disgusting, yet perfect (and vegetarian). Cows are anorexic over there and more often that not, the meat tastes, well not as welcoming as I prefer. So I was a pseudo pescatarian most of the time, which was actually quite nice. This guy on the other hand is most definitely not.
If your adventures ever take you to Eastern Africa, watch the Lion King before you go. Disney used a lot of Swahili in that movie and it makes safari just that more fun when you realize Simba actually does mean lion.