The Taste of the Swahili Coast

Abundant fresh seafood, an endless supply of coconut, a love of spices that sailed in from the East, and various influences from successions of colonizers and settlers (Arab, Persian, Indian, and European) make Swahili cuisine wonderfully wholesome and exotic without being overblown or too complex. The use of tropical fruits such as tamarinds and passion fruit means that getting a piquant flavor -- often a wonderful accompaniment to fresh, tasty, line-caught fish -- is easy, and samaki paka (fish of the day) will often be prepared with coconut. The influences of Arabian and Indian kitchens are also evident; you'll find curries, often prepared with coconut, served with rice or chapati. Other dishes and snacks to look out for include:

Achari: Dried mango dipped in a sugary chili paste

Bajias: Deep-fried balls made with beans, onion, coriander, and spinach

Guvaji: Sweet potato; often accompanies a meat dish

Kachumbari: Traditional salad of tomato and onion that's found on most tables and is often used to add flavor to other dishes or temper a spicier dish or curry Labania: A sweet made with milk, sugar, and ground nuts

Maandazi: Deep-fried, donutlike flour triangle

Mabuyu: Flavored baobab seeds

Maharagwe: Kidney beans with onion, tomato, and coconut cream

Makai: Roasted corn

Mishikaki: Barbecued kebabs, usually made with lamb and chicken

Mkate wa mayai: Swahili pizza made with vegetables and potato

Muhogo: Cassava; often accompanies a meat dish

Pojo: Concoction of green gram lentils with onion, tomato, coconut cream, and lentils

Samosas: Triangular parcels of slightly spicy vegetables, meat, or fish

Wali wa nazi: Coconut rice

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.