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How to cook Swahili

Written by: Nipun Srivastava
Photograph by: Nipun Srivastava
Cooking chapati in Zanzibar

Ever wonder what the people of this island eat and what are their cooking techniques?

The Swahili culture has dominated this island for many centuries and over that time the style of cooking has evolved. The use of innovative techniques along with exotic ingredients gives Swahili cuisine an edge over any other coastal preparation.

If you are interested in local foods, you can arrange to attend a Swahili cooking tour. This tour is fascinating for those who want an in-depth look at the culture and language as well as the closely knit village lifestyle the people of Zanzibar share.

The tour entails firstly going for a walk along the narrow streets and alleyways of Zanzibar town followed by a stroll through the vegetable and spice market next to Stone Town and, for those who can bear it, a tour of the local fish and meat markets, which can be rather an assault on the senses.

Chickens in the market, Zanzibar

The guide for this particular tour, Simai, is more than capable of giving you a detailed description of everything around. Whether it is the buildings in the city such as the House of Wonders, with over 100 beams supporting the structure and arches, or the people in the village and how they communicate with each other, Simai will tell you everything.

A local of the Mwanakwerekwe area of Zanzibar Town, he started a local tour business with the aim of promoting traditional activities and to provide employment for locals in his neighbourhood. He also offers local cultural tours, where you can see local handicrafts being made, and Swahili dinners with performances from musicians.

Getting down to the actual cooking, the tour group is taken to a local villager’s home. Here, the tourists meet the family and also see how the family goes about preparing the ingredients for the food. The cooking method involves a stove, which is made of cast iron and filled with smouldering coals. An wooden stool with a sharp implement on the end, called the 'mbuzi' (goat), is used to grate the meat of the coconuts.

It is interesting to see how the woman of the house prepares the dough for the bread using a special slapping technique while the participants of the tour help out with other aspects of preparing lunch for the group.

This tour gives every tourist a chance to try out Swahili cookery. Once the lunch is over, the group takes a dala dala ride back to their respective destinations.

To go on a Swahili cookery tour, contact Simai Haji of KV tours and travels on +255 24 5500656 or +255 7731 32334. Email: info [at] kvtours [dot] net



i nwould like to be there to see how people live just writing to you makes me happy

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