Step away from the tourist places and don’t be afraid to try new food when you’re traveling to another country, especially when you go to Zanzibar in Tanzania. This guide will point you in the right direction of what food to look for during your trip, as residents are proud of their dishes that are unique to the region. Get ready to take your taste buds on an adventure, here’s why you should eat your way through Zanzibar.
Zanzibar has a substantial Indian population, so you’ll find glorious Indian dishes everywhere you go and biryani is practically ubiquitous in the city. Biryani is rice cooked and seeped in various flavors like curry, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and more. It can also be served with chicken or beef. However, if you want to go truly Zanzibar-style, order some seafood to pair with biryani.
Head into a popular open market and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find vendors full of barbecued and grilled seafood on skewers, ready to eat. People of Zanzibar are somewhat obsessed with seafood, so you’ll find an overload of street food such as lobsters, crabs, shrimp, scallops and more. And not to mention, they’re incredibly cheap and plentiful compared to what you’d probably get back at home.
Now before you scratch your head, thinking, “well I can get that anywhere,” you haven’t tried Zanzibar’s version of pizza. At first glance, the pizza looks more like a meat pastry made with crepes as the dough tends to be very thin, topped with meat, eggs and other spices. Once topped with the ingredients, the pizza maker will roll the crepe-like dough on the edge, making it resemble an open-face pie. The beauty of Zanzibar Pizza is that you can opt for sweet flavors where your pie can be topped with mangoes or chocolate.
Hope you like your spices because Zanzibar is rich in nutmeg and other flavorful spices. Nutmeg grows in the region and locals will use it in their dishes as much as possible. We highly suggest going on a Spice Tour in Zanzibar where a knowledgeable guide will take you through the wilderness to show you trees and bushes bearing nuts and fruits that are destined to be ground into delectable spice mixes.
A mandazi is a Tanzanian doughnut that will hit the spot when you have a sweet tooth. They’re often made with coconut milk and mixed in with cinnamon, cardamom or nutmeg to create the flavor. When ordering a mandazi, it should be served hot and coated in honey for a sweeter taste. Drooling yet? Locals love to enjoy a mandazi with their coffee or tea.
If Bubba Gump was living in Zanzibar, he’d say “Octopus biryani, octopus skewers, barbecued octopus, pan-fried octopus curry…” and so on. Octopus is a popular protein in the region and you’ll likely never find this many octopuses in markets or restaurants anywhere else. Almost every restaurant you’ll go in will feature octopuses on its menu. So whatever creative tentacle-ridden dishes that jump out to you during your visit, give it a try.
This dish is for the early risers only. Uji is a porridge made from sorghum, maize and millet, and it’s considered a popular breakfast meal for locals. You’d be hard-pressed to find an uji dish before noon since they’re more catered to locals who are getting started to go to work. Walk down the marketplace and you’ll find women stirring a large pot of uji, enough to feed dozens. Hop in line to try out this dish and get a taste of what it’s like to be a local in flavorful Zanzibar.
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