Thursday, 5 February 2015

Muscat Festival 2015: Taste Zanzibari Snack at International Food Court

Zanzibar's culture is a remarkable fusion of African, Arab and Indian influences, all of which have helped shape an eclectic street cuisine that rivals anywhere else in Africa. This time in the Amerat venue of the Muscat Festival, cheap and scrumptious eats from Tanzania are available at the International Food Court. So keep your eyes peeled for these tasty treats if you are a foodie.

Haji Amour Haji, the energetic managing director of Hamoup Company Ltd, Tanzania, which is into food industry, is here for the first time to have a taste of Oman as well as to give a taste of Zanzibar to the festival folks. Haji and his three-member team from Tanzania are preparing some of the best Zanzibari evening snacks at the pavilion. Ali has brought some of the original Zanzibari ingredients which are not available in Muscat.

"But I purchase some common food stuff from the supermarket here to make the food," he said.

"Mainly people are coming here for mishkakI (beef or chicken kebabs) and mbatata Urojo. The festival is starting at noon time so we are concentrating on snacks. We are doing the recipes of Zanzibari cassava, banana and the mixed food. Owing to the limited space available we are preparing only snacks. People enjoy and are happy to taste our food here," Haji, who is visiting Oman for the first time, said.

The snack menu includes cassava crush mixed with beef, kachori, samboosa etc. The spice island's special blend, urojo soup tastes significantly better than it looks. The yellowish broth is a mouthwatering blend of mango and ginger (usually with tamarind, lime and hot peppers to taste) stuffed with your choice of potatoes, kachori, cassava chips, bread, eggs and salads.

The other item on the menu, Zanzibar Mix, is a homegrown Indian Zanzibari Tanzanian creation. Zanzibar Mix (known as Urojo in Zanzibar), is an Indian inspired Zanzibari Tanzanian bowl of curry soup with lots of toppings. Potatoes, chickpeas, fried bhajias, peanuts and an assortment of the crunchy things make the base.

They are then covered in a light creamy curry sauce and finally topped with a handful of cassava of potato chips, a spoon of fresh coconut chutney, and a pile of hot pili pili (chili) sauce. It's a Dar Es Salaam street food favorite – and it's packed with diverse flavors and textures. You will get to know how the different cultures have an impact on your taste buds!

"I brought Cassava from Zanzibar," said Haji. For many this is the real staple food of Zanzibar. It is produced locally and used as a main dish as 'muhogo wa nazi', which literally translates to 'coconut cassava', ugali, etc or crisped as a snack, or grilled.

A true food lover, Haji admits that these are not the real traditional Zanzibari food. "These are only snacks. Our kitchen here in this festival is very small. So we find it really difficult to make the real traditional food." The price ranges from 100 baiza to RO1 for a snack deal.

Apart from the Zanzibari snack stall some local franchisees have put up Chinese, Indian, Egyptian, Iranian and Turkish stalls. "The food items are being prepared in traditional Chinese Dalian style," says Konj, the man behind the Chinese delicacies here. The menu offers Chinese noodles with vegetables, fried noodles, sauces beef, wonton, boiled dumpling, fried dumpling, fried squid, fried mutton and garlic broccoli among others.

At the Egyptian counter, you can have traditional Egyptian Koushari, fool (mashed fava beens), famous sweets such as kunafa, sweet omali and Mahalabiya (rice custard). The Iranian stall is full of sweets, candies and ice creams of different flavours plus chicken sandwich. "From 200 baiza to RO 1.300 traditional Iranian sweets and products such as dried pomegranates Marjoram extracts and saffron and saffron flavoured sweets are here," Shakiba, the manager of the Iranian stall said.

The Indian menu has the world's great street food snacks such as pani puri, pappi chat, gol geppe etc and dishes from the tandoori oven - . nan, roti chicken tikka and paneer tikka. "We also serve south Indian food like dosa, idli, oothappam, masala dosa etc. Our specialty is Mumbai special biryani and dosa items, oothappam, masla dosa," says cook Madan Singh adding that lot of foreigners have been coming and tasting the pani puri here." The Biryani combo has raita, salad, Indian pickels and biryani for RO 1.700.

The famous Turkish chicken shawarma is another attraction at the food court. You can sip traditional Turkish coffee and tea, and enjoy various flavours of cake - profiterole, orange, chocolate, lata - here.

Though there is a long way to go for a real international food fest, you can, still, have an interesting snack deal from here.

Source: Times of Oman

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