Thursday, August 22, 2013

Fresh and Spiced in Zanzibar

On top of the beautiful white powder beaches and completely relaxed lifestyle, Zanzibar's "spice island" heritage makes for intricate and delicious local food. The highlight in Zanzibar was definitely the seafood and the unique use of spices. 
Calamari, straight from the ocean

The seafood we had in Zanzibar was literally sea to table. Sometimes we would watch our guesthouse's staff fish for octopus and roll it around in the sand -- after it was dead -- to soften up the meat. They would then rinse it in the ocean, bring it into the kitchen and, voila! We had fresh grilled garlic octopus with fresh cut veggies and cardamom rice. The same was done with snapper, squid and any of the seafood plates we ordered: they'd fish it, put it on the menu and we'd eat it within minutes, at most hours. 

The spices were also really fun to have. Nepal definitely lacked in spices and though Ethiopian food was very good, the spices were not too diverse. Zanzibar cuisine uses a lot of cardamom, cinnamon, pepper, turmeric and fresh vanilla beans. These spices are widely used and I loved it! 

One of the best additions to black tea: cinnamon

For example, tea in the morning was always brewed with freshly crushed cinnamon sticks and instead of plain white rice, they'd make it with cardamom and/or cinnamon and turmeric. 

The Rock restaurant in Zanzibar
The best use of spices we encountered was at The Rock, an amazing restaurant on top of a rock in the middle of the ocean. During high tide, the water completely surrounds the place and you either have to swim or take a boat to/from the restaurant. They had a seafood pasta dish with an EVOO (so nice to have olive oil again!) and fresh vanilla bean sauce -- it was delicious!

As a bonus, we also enjoyed thirst-quenching, made-to-order fresh juices. They had passion fruit everywhere and I particularly liked a passion fruit banana coconut yoghurt lassi. It may have been topped, however, by a coconut, lime, ginger smoothie at one of the best cafes in Stone Town (the capital). 


Although we didn't go to Zanzibar for the food, we were pleasantly surprised by how good the food actually was! The spiced, fresh food was a much welcomed addition to our travel diet; we certainly did not mind spending 10 days in this wonderful food heaven! 

The Sea in Zanzibar has a lot of  amazing fresh seafood to offer

A very interesting dish with savory bananas/plantains

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