Top street foods in Stone Town, Zanzibar

Posted by Kati Auld on 20 May 2013

You’d be crazy not to have high foodie expectations of Zanzibar, a place known as the Spice Island. However, there’s a big difference between the tourist experience and that of your average local: getting about in Zanzibar is only the start of “living like a local.” I didn’t have the budget for restaurant food on my trip, so my adventures were restricted to street food. I couldn’t be happier about it: buying and eating street food is one of the best ways to connect with the people and culture of your destination, no matter where you are.

Also read: 25 of the best things to eat and drink in Mauritius

 

1. Roving coconuts

Yeah, okay, your plane has landed and your passport has been stamped. But you’re not actually in Zanzibar until you’ve found the roving coconuts. Fellows pulling bamboo carts filled with young coconuts roam the  streets of Stone Town with not much of a route or plan, so you have to wander around to find them. Alternatively, hang around outside Livingstone’s at sunset: sometimes serendipity comes to you. They’ll lop them open for you with a machete, which is crucial: ten coconuts, one bottle of rum and a bread knife results in a very frustrating party, as we found out. I took to carrying a spoon with me everywhere – just in case I came across a roving coconut cart, and needed some help getting hold of that delicious coconutty flesh.

 

2. Urojo

Street Food, Zanzibar, Kati Auld

That's roasted cassava sticking out on the left, by the way. I don't recommend it.

Urojo is as delicious as it is unphotogenic. There’s a tangy chicken stock base, into which is added chopped potato, fried cassava chips, thinly sliced red onion, kachori (it’s number 6 on this list) and a hard-boiled egg. You can add meat, but it’s unnecessary. There are a few hotspots for urojo stands: you’ll almost always find some in Darajani, the local food market, in the evenings. I recommend a visit there anyway: it’s lively, smelly, and exciting. But if you’re on the harbour-side of town, try the stall under the Big Tree, across from Mercury’s on Mizingani Street.

 

3. Sugarcane juice

Sugarcane press, street food, Zanzibar

Aaaaah. Fresh sugarcane juice, squeezed from an old-school press right before your eyes, with some ginger and lime: the taste of summer. You’ll usually find someone selling this around Forodhani Gardens.

 

4. Chapatti

Street Food, Zanzibar, Kati Auld

Yummmmm

I suspect that chapatti would form part of my last meal. Buttery, flaky, wrapped in newspaper and eaten in a  finger-burning frenzy, hot off the griddle? Heaven. I ate chapatti every single day that I was in Zanzibar, and I still dream about it sometimes at night. (Want to make your own? Try this Zanzibari pumpkin pilau and wholemeal chapatti recipe.)

 

5. Kachori

These are deep-fried balls of mashed potato (nobody’s ever lost weight in Zanzibar, in case you were wondering), spiced with chilli, lime and ginger. Squish them into a chapatti with some fire-roasted redskinned peanuts, and perhaps some “salad” (shredded carrot and cabbage) and you’ve just made yourself lunch for about R5.

 

6. Uji

Street food, Zanzibar, Kati Auld

You can't eat uji with a spoon.

This thin, maize-based porridge is very difficult to find after 8am, but if you get there before it runs out you’re in for a treat. It’s sweet and moreish: and particularly good when sprinkled with a little black pepper. Sipping on uji and eavesdropping on the conversations of the women around me was a great way to make friends and learn Swahili.

 

7. Mkate mayai

This is some kind of love-child of an omelette and French toast. “Cubes of bread fried in egg” doesn’t quite cover the oily, crispy, gooeyness of this perfect hangover meal. I used to get mine at a hole in the wall on Mkunazini Street.

 

8. Coffee (Jaws Corner)

Street Food, Zanzibar, Kati Auld

Take your milk-and-two-sugars mentality back to the land of tea, please. Zanzibari coffee is espresso. The atmosphere in Jaws Corner is a great place to get your morning caffeine fix too: there’s always some kind of very passionate board-game going on. Sometimes you can buy very sharp, sweet ginger tea there too.

 

9. Zanzibar pizza (Forodhani)

This is probably the most famous Zanzibari street-food, and it bears no resemblance to pizza. It’s a jumble of veggies, egg and mayo (and meat, if that’s your thing) wrapped in very thin dough and then fried. You’ll find many stalls selling this at the night market at Forodhani (and elsewhere), so look around and see which one seems the most appealing. Forodhani is definitely worth a visit while in Stone Town: lots of stalls gather on the promenade at sunset, with people shouting and cooking and making friends. You can buy most of the foods mentioned above there, as well as a mean prawn skewer. However, it is more expensive, and it can be quite touristy.

 

Street Food, Zanzibar, Kati Auld

Zanzibari vetkoek!

 
Street Food, Zanzibar, Kati Auld

 

Street Food, Zanzibar, Kati Auld

Oh, the spices you can buy at Darajani Market...

 

Street Food, Zanzibar, Kati Auld

Board-games require intense concentration in Jaws Corner

 

Street Food, Zanzibar, Kati Auld

The food at this "restaurant" was delicious.

 

Street Food, Zanzibar, Kati Auld

These lovely girls turned the menu into a drawing book.

 

Street Food, Zanzibar, Kati Auld

Then you can visit 236 Hurumzi and all you need to devour is the view, not the overpriced food.

 

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