Art. Clothes. Food. I love seeing what city has to offer in those categories. To me you can get a true feel for the personality of a place through those three elements. When I went to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, I was excited to visit the Tinga Tinga Art Collective. I had money set aside specifically for paintings and jewelry. I also bought souvenirs from the traveling Maasai. Places like Italy, Japan, France are well known for their cuisine. In the west, these countries are seen as the top of the culinary mountain. But listen. I had no idea how well I’d be eating in Tanzania.
Tanzania needs some respect. The folks in Dar Es Salaam know what they are doing in the kitchen. First of all, if you want western style food, they do it as well as anyone. For a classic breakfast, I went to Orchid Cafe in Oyster Bay for pancakes. Perfectly fluffy pancakes topped with fresh strawberries. The Ridge Cafe, located in the City Center, does an exceptional latte. The sticky buns are tasty also.
Now I don’t go to an entirely different country just to eat the same things I eat at home. I want to try local cuisine. In Dar Es Salaam, in a quiet little neighborhood is Karafuu 305. A taxi driver dropped me off in front and I was greeted by the owner and manager. The restaurant was empty since it had literally just opened for the evening but vibe was cool. Jazz music played, incense was lit. I sat at the bar with the manager and had a great conversation. He took my order then led me to a table. When the food came out I had no idea what I was about to experience. I ordered the Tiger Prawns in coconut curry sauce with sautéed vegetables and garlic rice. The prawns were juicy and packed with flavor. The vegetables tender, fresh, and slightly sweet to offset the spice from the prawns. The rice was maybe the best rice I’ve ever eaten. I’m not exaggerating. This was real cooking. Its the knowledge how tender steamed veggies should be, how spices can really enhance food without dominating, how to proportion each dish so a man can leave satisfied. The men running the place really know how to treat a guest also. After I thoroughly cleaned my plate the owner brought out more veggies on the the house. I shamelessly devoured that too. Karafuu 305 is a must go to restaurant in Dar Es Salaam.
Next we take a little ferry ride over the Indian Ocean and land on the island Zanzibar. Zanzibar is a famous tourist destination known for its white sand beaches, incredible wooden doors (yes doors) and luxurious atmosphere. Being such a fertile island, fruit and spices grow in abundance. In Stone Town, there are several historical sites, beautiful little streets to get lost in and a variety of places to eat. A popular spot I went to a few times is the Stone Town Cafe. This is a great place to hang out and relax and the offerings are very good. The hot spiced tea is a tasty paradox. It is exotic yet subtle, spicy and sweet, familiar but mysterious. I usually had this with the coconut bread toast as an evening snack. There was also the chicken pizza. I ordered this not really looking at the ingredients and to my surprise there was a sweet peanut sauce under the cheese instead of marinara. It was off-putting at first, but with the pepper sauce it became a really flavor packed combination I enjoyed.
I left Stone Town and spent a couple of nights in the northeast of Zanzibar in a beach called Matemwe. The bed and breakfast I stayed at covered me for breakfast but the real treat was at a nearby lodge called the Sunshine Hotel. I stopped in for lunch and had the mishkaki with fries and a side of salad. My goodness. The meat was the definition of savory. Without a doubt a dish I’m trying to learn to cook myself. On top of the excellent meal, the decor was awesome.