Food is key to understanding and fully experiencing a new country or culture.
The late chef and author Anthony Bourdain famously said: “Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go.”
Oh, and how much Zanzibar has to offer through its food! With Arab, Portuguese, Swahili, Indian and even Chinese culinary traditions influencing its cuisine, this exotic island brings new meaning to the concept of a “melting pot of cultures”.
Are you ready to delve into Zanzibar’s diverse history and heritage through its food? Here’s where to start:
Visit the food markets
Try a little bit of everything at a local food market. See, touch and smell everything, from freshly fried chilli bites, herbs and spices to fish caught just that morning.
Darajani Bazaar is the hub of historic Stone Town’s commercial activity, selling a wide range of food products, including fresh meats, fish, fruit and spices, as well as clothes, electronics and other wares.
Nearby Forodhani Park is home to an atmospheric, lively night food market. Where Darajani Bazaar is more of a household market, Forodhani boasts a more relaxed vibe.
The market opens in the late afternoon and continues until late at night. Here, you can find fresh local produce and delicious street food. A firm favourite is octopus and fried cassava. Add a few sides of fried potato balls, naan bread and samosas, and don’t forget to finish your meal with a spice cake, a common pastry dessert made with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and chocolate.
Bustling Malindi Fish Market specialises in local fishermen’s harvests from the sea. With many hawkers selling their catch of kingfish, tuna, squid, octopus and other varieties of fresh seafood from the Indian Ocean, the market offers a true island experience worth a visit for the atmosphere.
Savour the flavours of the spice island
Zanzibar is also known as the “spice island” of Africa. Spices constitute one of its main industries.
From operating as a trade post centuries ago, to having its spice trade commercialised under Portuguese rule, Zanzibar has spices ingrained at the very heart of its cuisine, and the island was once the world’s largest producer of cloves.
Visit Tangawizi Spice Farm to learn more about the fascinating history of Zanzibar’s spice trade and its impact on modern-day life. A guide will take you through the winding streets of villages and forest paths to explore the story of spices – from where they grow to how they are used today.
On a guided tour you will taste, smell and see seasonal spices and fruits, and sample homemade spice teas. The farm is also home to a restaurant serving traditional Swahili dishes incorporating handpicked spices and herbs from the area.
Feast on fresh seafood on an iconic rock
The Rock is more than a restaurant – it’s a famous Zanzibar attraction. With the picturesque eatery perched on a rather small rock off the coast, it’s not hard to understand why!
Its unusual structure and location aren’t the only reasons why The Rock made this list – its food is great, too. Using only local produce and offering a feast of seafood harvested from the reefs close to the restaurant, The Rock is a great place to sit back, relax and savour the delicious treats Zanzibar has to offer.
During low tide, diners can walk to the restaurant, while at high tide it’s only a short swim or boat ride away. The restaurant can accommodate a maximum of 20 diners at a time, so best book your seat in advance!