Zanzibar: Menus & Recipes from Africa




When the wind blows in the right direction, the fragrance of spice is deliciously strong, and you know you are in Zanzibar, the Spice Island, with its cloves and cinnamon, lichee nuts, cocoa beans, and coconut. A tiny island, it is a part of Tanzania, the name deriving from a combination of the names of the two formerly separate states, Tanganika and Zanzibar.

On our visit to the island, the political situation did not permit us t o move about freely, but we were able to walk through the narrow streets and visit the marketplace. The food market is just as we had imagined it. Fruits and vegetables are abundant. Barefoot vendors in colorful balloon pants and skull caps sit cross-legged on the ground before neat rows or piles of their produce. Bananas and plantains, cassava, addoes (a potato-like vegetable), hot red peppers, and all kinds of green vegetables are in plentiful supply in their stalls.

We bought little cellophane bags of colored coconut, purple and pink, and surprisingly delicious. We stuffed ourselves with sticky sesame candy and hot baked sweet potatoes, toasted corn, and baked cassava. Three boys passed with baskets made of palm leaves on their heads--one carried papayas, the second bananas, and the third coconuts. We mused on the many delicacies one could make with these three fruits alone.

A drive through the countryside provided many interesting experiences. In a visit to one of the circular huts, we were most impressed by the delightful hospitality of the women so eager for company. Our hostess was cooking a silvery liquid shimmering with small round fish (somewhat like our butter-fish) in a luscious lemon-flavored sauce. The aroma of whole sweet potatoes baking on a three-stone hearth filled the air. The amazing coolness of the mud hut made us reluctant to leave, but our guides hustled us off. On our way to the car we did stop to contemplate the profusion of fresh fruits and nuts at arm's reach. We picked grape fruits, lemons, lichee nuts, and long thin reeds of lemon grass, and cut cinnamon bark from the cinnamon tree.

Although we were not able to stay for this repast, it is safe to assume that it would have been served in the same manner as in Tanzania. You have the choice of presenting the menu in the native manner (see Tanzania) or as it was served at the Zanzibar Hotel with waiter service.

We were not permitted to lunch in a native restaurant and were taken instead (to our disappointment!) to the Zanzibar Hotel, where all visitors and tourists are asked to eat. But the luncheon at the hotel exceeded our expectations and was so well served that we decided to include the menu here. It took a bit of doing to get the recipes, but here they are, easy to make and simple to serve.

How You Can Present a Zanzibar Dinner

Make this a formal dinner. The tablecloth should be of damask or white linen. Set the table with gleaming silverware and use your best crystal goblets for sparkling water or a mild beer. Arrange a centerpiece of tropical fruits in a low attractive bowl interspersed with short-stemmed flowers. Spice scented candles in silver candelabra will help create the atmosphere of the Spice Island. Attractive service plates complete the table setting.

As guests arrive for the Zanzibar dinner, put five or six whole cloves into their hands. They will look at you with surprise, but when they see that you are chewing on one, they will quickly follow suit.

The soup may be brought in from the kitchen in double-handled soup cups with an underliner and placed on the service plate. When the course is finished, the dishes, including the service plates, are removed.

Next, serve two fish croquettes on a salad plate, garnished with lemon slices studded with cloves on a bed of parsley.

Rice in an attractive bowl is spooned in a mound on dinner plates, followed by a large bowl of beef curry which each guest is invited to spoon liberally over the rice.

A glass-sectioned relish dish containing the sambals, or accompaniments, for a curry is passed around.

The delicate banana custard chilled in wine glasses is the dessert. Coffee is served in the living room after dinner.

Zanzibar Hotel Luncheon Menu




  • WALI



    Shopping List for Eight

    Meats, Chicken

    1 5-lb. chicken or fowl
    2 Ibs. boneless chuck


    1/2 Ib. butter
    6 eggs

    Gourmet Shop

    A good quality curry

    Fruits and Vegetables

    3 Ibs. onions
    1 small cabbage
    1 Ib. tomatoes
    1 stalk celery
    1 lemon
    6 bananas
    2 oranges
    1 cucumber


    1 can tuna or salmon
    1 pkg. bread crumbs
    1 jar mango chutney
    1 pkg. grated coconut
    2 pkgs. no bake custard
    1 Ib. shelled peanuts



    This chicken soup tastes better on the second day, so make it ahead of time if you can. A little curry might be added unless a curried dish is served in the same meal.

    The real trick is to saute vegetables first and then proceed to make the soup. This, by the way, is a chef's secret for making superb soups. Save the rest of the chicken (fowl) for salad for another meal. Supu Ya Kuku may also be made when there is leftover chicken available. In this case use four chicken bouillon cubes following above method without the fowl, but use 2 cups of diced chicken instead of 1.

    In a 3-quart saucepan:

    Saute: 1/2 cup ONIONS, finely chopped

    1/2 cup CABBAGE, finely chopped
    1 small TOMATO, finely diced
    1 stalk CELERY, finely chopped in
    2 oz. BUTTER or MARGARINE until soft but not brown.

    Add: 1 5-lb. FOWL (fat hen), cut in quarters

    2 quarts WATER
    1 tsp. SALT
    1/2 tsp. PEPPER.

    Simmer gently for 1 hour or until meat is tender.

    Remove the fowl.

    Cut 1 cup of the meat in 1/2 inch cubes and add to the soup.

    Correct the seasonings to your taste.


    The fish used for making croquettes in Zanzibar is not mashed as it is here. The consistency of the fish is flaky, and the flavor of the spices of Zanzibar make this a distinctive dish. Leftover halibut, flounder, haddock, or any mild fish is excellent for croquettes. Canned tuna or salmon are also good. Make the croquettes larger if you want to make this an entree course. The croquettes should not be deep-fat fried but lightly sauteed in butter. Don't forget the whole cloves on the lemon garnish.

    In a 1 quart bowl:

    Mash coarsely 1 Ib. COOKED FISH (either leftover white flaked fish or canned tuna or salmon, drained).

    Add: 2 EGGS lightly beaten

    1 tsp. SALT
    1 pinch SAFFRON
    1 Tbs. VlNEGAR
    1 pinch CUMIN SEED (optional)
    3 to 4 Tbs. BREAD CRUMBS.

    Form into 1-oz. (2-inch) croquettes.

    Place on a bed of 1 cup BREAD CRUMBS spread out on a small tray.

    Press the crumbs into the croquettes on all sides.

    Chill in refrigerator for 1 hour.

    Saute in 3 oz. BUTTER or MARGARINE until golden brown on all sides.

    Place two croquettes per guest on a salad plate.

    Garnish with: 2 LEMON SLICES studded with

    2 or 3 WHOLE CLOVES each.


    What a lovely curry dish this is! It is quite yellow in color, and the sauce is smooth and velvety. It is the combination of all the spices which makes this great dish. Use a good quality of curry and make it with any meat. It is frequently served with beef liver in East Africa. Try it with lamb or veal as a change.

    In a 4 quart saucepan:

    Saute: 1 cup ONIONS, finely chopped

    1 clove GARLIC, crushed
    1 tsp. SALT
    1 tsp. TURMERIC
    1/4 tsp. CHILI POWDER
    1 to 2 tsps. CURRY POWDER in
    4 Tbs. OIL or MARGARINE until onions are soft.

    Add 2 Ibs. CHUCK of BEEF cut in 3/4-inch cubes.

    Saute lightly but do not permit the meat to brown.

    Add: 2 cups WATER

    4 Tbs. LEMON JUICE.

    Cover tightly and allow to simmer for 1 hour.

    If the sauce appears thin, thicken it with: 2 Tbs. CORNSTARCH dissolved in

    2 Tbs. WATER.

    Serve in a 4 quart oval bowl with RICE cooked in chicken or beef broth (allow 1 cup cooked rice per portion).

    In a 6-sectioned relish dish or six small bowls:

    Place: 1/2 cup BANANAS cut in 1/4-inch dice dribbled with lemon juice.

    1/2 cup MANGO CHUTNEY
    1/2 cup CUCUMBER in 1/2-inch dice

    Place the Sambals, or relishes, on the tables so guests may help themselves.


    Banana custard may also be made with packaged vanilla pudding, but the or "no- bake" custard requires no cooking and gives a result comparable to the custard served in Zanzibar. Pineapple, crushed or diced, may be added or substituted for the bananas and some orange sections would improve the color. Since Zanzibar is the Spice Island the strong use of cloves and cinnamon as garnish add greatly to the authenticity as well as the flavor of the dish.

    In a 1-quart bowl:

    Prepare 3 cups NO-BAKE CUSTARD following package directions.

    Slice 3 BANANAS into 8 champagne glasses.

    Spoon the custard over the bananas.

    Chill and permit the custard to set.

    In a small bowl:

    Combine: 1 tsp. CINNAMON

    1/2 tsp. GROUND CLOVES
    1/4 tsp. NUTMEG
    1/2 cup SUGAR
    4 Tbs. PEANUTS finely chopped.

    Sprinkle 1 heaping tablespoon of the spice mixture over each custard.

    Decorate with whipped cream if desired.


    A typical relish that might be served at the Zanzibar dinner:

    In a 2-quart saucepan:

    Saute: 1/2 cup CHOPPED ONION in

    1/4 cup OIL until light brown.

    Add: 2 LARGE TOMATOES, thinly sliced and

    2 cups PEANUT BUTTER and saute for 5 minutes.

    Add: 2 cups COOKED PEA BEANS

    1 pint WATER.

    Simmer for 1/2 hour or until mixture is thick.

    Serve with Ugali, rice, yams, or sweet potatoes or as a relish with any dinner.

    Extracts from: Bea Sandler. The African Cookbook. Diane & Leo Dillon (Illust.). New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1993.

    To order a copy of The African Cookbook, please contact:

    The Carol Publishing Group
    600 Madison Avenue
    New York, NY 10022

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