Spending your day lazing on the beach or swimming in the sea can sure make you hungry. Luckily, Zanzibar food is varied enough to inspire even the most jaded palate. It’s as tasty and colourful as the history of the island itself, and you’ll detect all sorts of flavours, from the familiar to the delightfully foreign.

Chefs on Zanzibar are never short of ingredients and they get inspired by seasonally available fruits, vegetables and spices. Then of course there’s the bounty of the ocean: some of the best and freshest seafood you’ll ever enjoy.

In this blog, we’ll be looking at some classic Zanzibar dishes. We can’t tell you which ones you’ll enjoy most – our advice is just to come hungry!

Break your fast

Chipsi mayai is Swahili for chips and eggs and makes for a great change from a bowl of cereal. Enjoy this classic Zanzibar dish with a blob of tomato sauce or spice it up with kachumbari (a popular local salad that contains chili).

Try something new

Chances are that you’ve never tried octopus curry, but you really should. It’s one of the most iconic Zanzibar dishes, and contains many of the ingredients that characterise the island’s unique approach to cooking. Coconut cream for richness and a subtle flavour, coriander and turmeric for flavour, and of course, firm chunks of octopus. You’ll find this sucker at all the best hotels, but the street food stall version is even better.

A slice of life

Sure, you’ve had pizza a few times in your life – but have you ever had a Zanzibar pizza? This unique twist on the world’s favourite fast food takes some topping. Visit the Forodhani night market and choose your ingredients (sweet or savoury). The chef will pop them all in a pocket of dough and then fry it in oil for a hot, crispy treat that you can eat while exploring Stone Town, or looking out to sea at the lights on the fishing boats.

Dip, dip, hurrah!

Mtori is a local word you may hear a lot during your time on Zanzibar. It’s another name for plantain soup, which involves pounded plantain (think of a large, not very sweet banana) simmered in chicken broth. It’s ideal for dunking, so be sure to have a stack of warm rotis to hand when you order this dish.

Something a little different…

Zanzibar chocolate is made of sesame seeds and honey, not cacao. It’s so good (in a sticky, yummy sort of way) that you might just forget you had a chocolate craving in the first place. Often sold in a torn-off page of yesterday’s newspaper, in case you missed it. Mandazi, meanwhile, are Zanzibar’s version of the ever-popular donut. These deep-fried balls of dough can be found just about anywhere – get them while they’re hot, and look out for the delicious cardamom ones.

Rice with (almost) everything

Zanzibaris have a real flair for adopting recipes from around the world, and then adapting them to suit local ingredients. Two great examples of this are biryani and pilau rice. Both involve using plenty of the aromatic spices which made the island both famous and rich, and nuts and coconut nuts are also often added for more crunch and unmistakably exotic flavour combinations. Both dishes are a filling answer to any hunger pangs you might experience after a full day of kitesurfing, snorkeling or sunbathing.

If you’re a seafood or sushi fan, it’s good to know that our chefs get the catch of the day from the local Jambiani fishermen in good time to prepare it for the evening meal at Driftwood – it’s something we can recommend without reservation.

Contact us to book a table for lunch or dinner at Driftwood Beach Lodge – and then stay for a week or two!