East African Cooking Lesson
I was introduced to mandazi in Nairobi, Kenya, as I toured the local supermarket, looking for interesting things to bring home to try. Our local guide, Newton, told us of a delicious pastry made with coconut milk, but, alas, the market didn't have any that day. Fast forward 3 weeks, without any mandazi. We're now in Stone Town, Zanzibar, having had our first mandazi at one of the two tables at Sambusa Two Tables. Hot out of the fryer, they were incredible - puffy, crisp, sweet and savory, all at the same time. My quest was fulfilled! Or so I thought. The next morning, the "Foods of Zanzibar" tour was supposed to include a haluwa factory, but none were open that day to the public, so after tasting freshly squeezed sugar cane juice, an Indian curry "mix" bowl, date "juice", and haluwa from a stand, our guide asked us what else we might want to do. I asked to see mandazi being made, thinking we'd go to a bakery. But, no. A car ride out of Stone Town and 20 minutes later, my husband and I were sitting on Mrs. Mohammed's front porch as she patiently showed me how to make mandazi, vipopo (another fried pastry, doused in still warm cardamom syrup), and mboga (a vegetable dish made by pounding the greens in the wooden mortar, filling the mandazi for an East African calzone) from scratch, including grating a fresh coconut to make coconut milk. What an incredible experience! If you're in Zanzibar, go to Gallery Tours and ask for Juma. He'll know exactly what to do.
By Pam DiMaria
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