A Fragrant Foodie Weekend in Zanzibar, Tanzania

TL:DR Stone Town, capital of Zanzibar is a secret foodie heaven. Day one: devour delicious smoothies at Lazuli, discover the delight of street food ‘Zanzibar Mix’, sink sundowners atop Africa Houses’ roof and feast at Forodhani night market. Day two: start with a bang at Zanzibar Coffee House, wander through the local markets and lunch at legendary Lukmaans, with a grand finale tasting safari at Emerson Spice.

Ah, Zanzibar. The spice island. A fragrant foodie experience. The main island’s capital, Stone Town, is a great place to explore the culinary delights this island has to offer. Influenced by the Arab and Indian traders, as well as European colonists there are some wonderful dishes to discover. Here’s a guide to some of the best restaurants and cafes:

Begin your gastronomic adventure with a zingy lunch at Lazuli. This little blue cafe is always popular, as its fresh juices are super zesty and give a healthy kick start to your day. Across Zanzibar, you will need to get accustomed to the Swahili style and speed of service i.e. slow. You will hear the phrase ‘pole pole’ and a hand gesture indicating that food and drinks will appear when it’s good and ready. Lazuli is no exception, it should be nicknamed Lazily – but it’s worth the wait. Use the opportunity to disconnect from hecticness. Bring your friends for a long catch up, a thick book to read or just accept Swahili way of life and relax.

Lazuli cafe entrance
Photo credit: Lyndsey Huvers
Lazuli cafe interior
Photo credit: Mindugus

Stone Town is a labyrinth of whitewashed streets that harbour little shops, businesses snuggled into the walls and every corner houses makeshift stalls. Take a wander around and get a little lost – its fun and you never know what you might discover.

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Huge carved Zanzibar door
Photo credit Jasper Van Herwaarden
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Photo credit Jasper Van Herwaarden
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Photo credit Jasper Van Herwaarden

There are carts laden with sticks of sugar beet so you can buy a bag of cane cubes or if you spot a wheel then they are making fresh cane juice.

Man making sugar cane juice by hand
Photo credit Island Castaways

You could stumble upon a stand selling Zanzibar mix (otherwise known as Urojo), a coconut curry soup with potato chunks and onion bhajis, topped with cassava chips and a couple of chutneys and some seriously spicy chilli sauce. Perhaps some peanuts or cashews are thrown in for good measure. Each seller has his own twist on the recipe so you could take extensive research and award a winner if you fancied a foodie challenge.

Urojo stall in Stone Town
Photo credit: Kutubkhan Halai
Dishing up using a coconut spoon
Photo credit: Kutubkhan Halai
street view of Zanzibar stall
Photo credit: Kutubkhan Halai
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Photo credit Island Castaways

After pounding the streets for a while you need a cold drink and a postcard vista of the sun setting behind an ocean dotted with traditional dhow boats. Head to the top floor of the colonial-styled Africa House for happy hour and you will be making family and friends instajealous.

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Dhow boats at sunset
Photo credit Island Castaways

Once dusk has fallen, Forodhani Gardens Night Market will be firing up the grills and luring customers with the smells of perfectly charred cuisine.The air is clouded with smoke and perfumed with mouth-watering aromas. A myriad of meats, fresh platters of seafood and speciality Zanzibar ‘pizzas’ are right royally barbecued in front of your eyes at the open-air stalls. It’s quite fun to peruse the options and to haggle with merchants for a good price, in fact, its mandatory for a true night market experience. The wonderfully simple Forodhani Gardens Night Market is a fabulous food feast.

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Photo credit Island Castaways
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Photo credit Jasper Van Herwaarden

Mornings need a caffeine injection, and Zanzibar Coffee House is a coffee mecca. The cafe serves oodles of different coffees made from a variety of beans grown on the fertile plains of southern Tanzania, which are certain to perk you up. There are also plenty of fresh pastries, muesli and slabs of cakes to fill you up. It is also a great place to people watch, either from the street side windows on the ground floor or from the roof terrace.

The inside of the Zanzibar Coffee house with people and large coffee tins
Photo credit: Zanzibar Coffee House
coffee and cake
Photo credit: Zanzibar Coffee House
Zanzibar Coffee House terrace overlooking stone town
Photo credit: Zanzibar Coffee House

Head over to Stone Town’s residents market where you can find many weird and wonderful foods, including species from the depths of the sea to pyramids of spices, of course. It’s fascinating to discover what’s for sale at Darajani market.

selling spices at the market
Photo credit: Lyndsey Huvers

Lukmaans is one of those local lunch spots that is cheap, cheerful and always draws a crowd. Be prepared to share a table and some stories with a random stranger or two. The rustic fare is hearty and full of Zanzibar flavours with a buffet style set up. You cannot go wrong with biryani rice and the coconut spiced curries, but don’t miss the octopus, it’s to die for.

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Photo credit Kutubkhan Halai
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Photo credit Kutubkhan Halai
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Photo credit Kutubkhan Halai
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Photo credit Kutubkhan Halai

 

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Photo credit Kutubkhan Halai

The grand finale has to be the tasting menu dinner at Emerson Spice’s Tea House. Once you have climbed the sets of stairs to the amazing rooftop setting, a five course extravaganza that rivals top restaurants around the world awaits. The menu changes daily and is incredibly inventive, using the finest of unusual foods native to Zanzibar. The dishes are definitely delectable, and they arrive with a courteous smile from our server. A cool breeze often accompanies the melodic calls to prayer that echo among the alleyways below as you dine. A true safari of the senses.

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Emerson Spice roof terrace
Photo credit Island Castaways

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These are the foodie highlights of Zanzibar, ranging from simple roasted meats to sophisticated ceviches and sorbets. The chefs of Stone Town are throwing down culinary challenges and carving out their own particular niches, to satisfy all palates with a superb variety of Zanzibari food experiences.

Halais Logo
This post was kindly supported with additional photographs in conjunction with Halai’s Women’s Clothing store, 237/238 Hurumzi Street (next to Emerson’s) in Stone Town Zanzibar.
HALAI’S ZANZIBAR

 

Check out my reviews of other nice places to visit in Tanzania, including Amani Forest Camp, Pangani, Lake Natron and Dar es Salaam.

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If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

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28 thoughts on “A Fragrant Foodie Weekend in Zanzibar, Tanzania

Add yours

  1. We loved Stone Town and all of Zanzibar 🙂 We actually ate at all the places you’ve mentioned in your post haha, so good! I loved the sugar cane juice.

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  2. Just reading this makes the mouth water to experience the flavours and spices. The night market photo looked so tasty, and for us we always love seafood. Would a weekend be enough to enjoy all these fabulous dishes.

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  3. Oh my gosh – Zanzibar sounds like my type of place. I love trying new foods (except for anything spicy). Lazuli is definitely right up my alley. I LOVE taking my time at cafes/restaurants, especially when I travel. It gives me time to enjoy and savor my food, take in the atmosphere/environment, and have time to people watch as well.

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      1. wow! Yeah it was never my cup of tea, I preferred the secret juice guys who you never know would turn up or not and had whatever fruit was in season – so random and awesome

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  4. This looks like such an incredible place to explore! The food looks really good too. Thanks for sharing your experience with us! I liked your facebook page so I can follow along!

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  5. The night market experience looks awesome. I would be nervous to haggle with someone for fear of upsetting them. You have really painted this city to be extremely inviting by the locals. The food all looks amazing to try.

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  6. Zanzibar looks amazing! I would really like to try all the different carts and see who had the best Zanzibar mix. And I love drinking cane juice. I had it in Morocco and it was so much fun. Reading this definitely made me want to visit Zanzibar.

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