Zanzibar is part of the country of Tanzania and is located in the Indian Ocean. Its African vibes, European influences and Arab roots make this place a perfect scenario to experiment new foods while having good experiences.
The Island with 2,462 km2 is an autonomous region of Tanzania and it is accesible from Dar es Salam by ferry or by air. The main Island is surrounded by more islands like Mafia Island, Pemba Island, among others. Its original name is Unguja Island (popular known as Zanzibar) and its name means “land of the black people”; this Island was a Portuguese colony and it was under a British protectorate until 1964.
About its population, 82% are muslims and the remaining population are Christians, Hindus, Jains and Sikhs. Swahili and English are the official languages and their economy is supported by the spice industry, raffia (palms) and tourism. Zanzibar is known for being the habitat of a wide variety of fauna, for its breathtaking views, incredible beaches, sunsets (North of the Island), places to relax, history (the capital Stone Twon is considered a World Heritage by UNESCO), warm people, diverse culture and for its exotic cuisine.
— ZANZIBARI CUISINE —
Seafood is one of the main food consumed on the Island, a big percent of the locals spend their days fishing and make a fresh tuna, lobster, octopus possible every day. Indian flavors are part of this characteristic cuisine, other ingredients such as sweet potato, beans, yam were whispered during the European colonialism and coconut, mango, citrus along with spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, among others) were brought to the area during the colonizing of Omanis, Yemenis and Persians.
The origen of many exotic dishes dates back many years, but they are still practiced by the actual Zanzibaris and traditional options, as well as international ones were possible in every restaurant I visited. An extensive breakfast started my days with energy to experience the Island, refreshing fruits, eggs, bread and tea, followed by lunch or snacks such as local curries, seafood or salads.
The idea of finalizing my days in one of the restaurant around the beach and under a clear sky of the many options available with a drink and a grilled catch of the day, was always the topic on the table on my visit to Zanzibar. Nights on the island can be very quiet with the sound of the sea and low tide welcoming night walks, but nights can also be very active in some days, as locals are always in the mood to celebrate and visitors want to spend a good time.
Each dish I tried was a way of discovering how the inspiration of the Zanzibaris in their kitchens is represented in the different dishes in the local restaurants. The presence of different welcoming aromas was the motivation to order an option that would allow me to experience a variety of spices and ingredients. Black pepper, chili, and turmeric were some of the most dominant spices in seasonings for meats and curries, this last one with some coconut notes and a slight cardamom flavor as well.
The seafood is always fresh in the Island and is visible by the presence of fishing boats in the water (this fact make the beaches memorable) and most of the seafood is grilled, which makes its cooking healthy and allows them to maintain their original flavors. In my case, after tasting the exquisite and tasty Zanzibar cuisine for a couple of days, the grilled octopus was the winner as it is prepared with ginger, black pepper and no other ingredient I knew…That felt like savoring the living culture of Unguja Island.
On my seventh day I visited Michamvi area, where the iconic restaurant The Rock is located and which has been in operation for 10 years. Pingwe beach is an authentic Zanzibar scenery and is home to a floating rock island with the restaurant, the sea makes it accessible at low and high tides (by boat). Its Italian owner tells “we had the vision to built this place in the middle of nothing” and now this place welcomes people from all over the world. The restaurant offers good options of local and Italian food, some interesting combination of dishes, as long as a wide variety of curious cocktails and desserts.
My stay in the restaurant finalized with this dessert which represents me the meaning of Zanzibar. The Smooth, crunchy texture made every scoop of the cold tiramisu enjoyable on the hot afternoon, along with the intense flavor of vainailla, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and more local spices. (For every dessert a customer orders, the restaurant donates 15% of the total price to Kichaga Foundation).
To know more about it: www.therockrestaurantzanzibar.com
The perfect combination of sun, blue water, smiling people and mouth-watering food make this place a unique African destination worthy of time and memories. You can check @mmmbycata on IG: www.instagram.com/mmmbycata/