Sunday, September 26, 2010

So...How Do You Say Delicious in Swahili?

When I found out I would be advancing to Round Two of Project Food Blog, I had the following thought process:  Holy crap, I made it to round two!  Me and my little blog!? AWESOME!  This was shortly followed by: Oh crap! The second challenge is due SUNDAY! Shenanigans! I have to make something outside of my culture that I'm unfamiliar two days?!  Isn't it funny how joy can turn to panic?

If you can't tell by my blog, I'm a lover of Latin and Asian influenced cuisine, so I knew I wouldn't be able to cook any of that (see, look at that, integrity in the battle for $10,000!).  I was practically chain cooking eating (much safer than chain smoking) due to my nerves, when I was suddenly inspired by the last person I spoke with-- a friend in Swahili language training to prepare for his departure to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.  Hmm, Tanzania...I don't know what their flag looks like, let alone what their food tastes I guess that fulfills the challenge.

So while my friends were in da club, I spent my Friday night at home researching Tanzania and its cuisine.  Here's the cliff notes version:

--Tanzania is in East Africa, is the 31st largest country in the world, and English and Swahili are the national languages.
--Tanzania's cuisine has been influenced by a number of cultures.  During the first 500 years of the country's history veggies, millet, fruits, and fish were mostly eaten but once the Muslim Arabs established trade routes, citrus, pilau (a spicy rice), and biriani (meat dishes), were introduced.  THEN! the Portuguese came and brought cassava and peanuts.  They also brought slaves from other parts of Africa which led to the introduction of cloves--a key spice in Tanzanian cuisine. But wait...there's more...the Brits came and brought tea (today, chai tea is the most widely consumed beverage) and boiled vegetables, and then the Germans took over and introduced coffee. Got all that?
--Meat is not widely consumed in comparison to other African nations.  For the average Tanzanian, meat (especially cattle) is reserved for special occasions and holidays.  The wealthy, however,  eat meat on a more regular basis.
--It is considered unclean to pass food with the left hand, and it is taboo for men to enter the convenient...
After learning all of that and researching some recipes, I decided to make the following Tanzanian meal for Challenge #2 of Project Food Blog:  
  • Kuku wa Kapaka (Chicken in Spiced Coconut/Tomato Sauce) 
  • Wali wa Nazi (Rice in Coconut Milk) 
  • Chapatti (Fried Flat Bread)
Before I get into the preparation of my meal, I  want to share a few tips with you guys to make cooking something unfamiliar as enjoyable and stress-free as possible:
  • Read the recipe...a lot.  I practically memorize it so that I don't loose control of the situation.  It's easy to get lost, perform steps in the wrong order, or misread measurements and directions when you are preparing something new.
  • Prep everything! I chop, dice, and measure everything and put it in little bowls, plates, and cups. Steven says I'm "playing Iron Chef," but this goes back to keeping control...which can be hard to do when making a new dish.  This was my prep for the  Kuku wa Kapaka:
  • Clean as you go.  Its easier to do things that are unfamiliar if everything is clean and orderly.  Don't let your dishes pile up because you will inevitably get frustrated.
  • Pray that it is edible at the end, and if it's not-- have cash to tip the delivery guy...and yes, I've had to do it...just ask Steven about the Sloppy Joe's Incident.  Its okay, everything is not going to be perfect, that's the joy of trying new recipes.
Okay, time to cook! I started with the Kuku wa Kapaka because it appeared to be the most labor and time intensive portion of the meal.  Although time intensive (it has to simmer for a bit for the flavors to meld) this is actually a pretty straightforward dish to prepare AND it's is a one pot entree! 

I started out by sauteing green peppers, garlic, and onions in butter.  Once the veggies began to soften I added all of the spices and mixed everything well.  The moment that the spices hit the vegetables, I felt as if I'd been transported to India, with a twist.  The curry powder and clove scents bounced off of one another, while the sweetness of the onions and peppers jumped through.  After the veggies softened a bit more, I removed them from the pot.  I then added another tablespoon of butter to the pot and browned my chicken, starting with skin-side down.

Once the chicken browned on all sides I removed it from the pot and reintroduced the veggies while adding the water and the potatoes.  I returned the chicken to the pot once the potatoes were tender, and let everything simmer.  After about 45 minutes, I decided to add the coconut milk, tomatoes, and a bit more salt.  Technically the dish is complete with the sauce thickens and the tomatoes are soft, but I think things like this always taste better when they simmer for hours, so that's what I let it do.

On to the coconut rice.  First thing, wash your rice! I'm a big believer in cleaning the rice because the final product will be fluffier and more flavorful.  To do this, just measure your rice into a bowl, add water, stir it a bit with your hands, and drain the dirty water off.  Repeat this process until the water is clear.  Here's what my rice looked like at the first rinse, then at the end of the process.

To make wali wa nazi, just bring 1 1/2 cups of coconut milk and 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil with a pinch of salt, add your rice, reduce the heat, cover, and cook it until the liquid has been absorbed, just like you would normally do when cooking rice.  I didn't try it, but I'm sure you could also do this in a rice cooker with the same measurements.

While my rice was cooking, I turned my attention to the chapatti, an Indian fried flat bread with onions and/or other savory ingredients that is very common in Tanzania.  I'm not going to lie, when I read the recipe, it didn't exactly sound appetizing.  All I could think was onion pancake.   With that said, I thought the flavor of a yellow or purple onion would be too strong, so I decided substitute with a spring onion.

Start with a bowl of flour, add your onions, and gradually pour in the water until an elastic dough forms.  Once you have your dough, coat it with a bit of vegetable oil --this will help you get it out of the bowl-- and transfer the dough onto a clean floured surface so that you can roll it out.

Roll the dough out with a rolling pin until until it is about 1/4 inch thick (give or take), and cut it into 1/2 inch wide strips.  Then, roll each strip into a spiral (like a cinnamon bun) and let it rest for a few minutes.

After the dough has had a chance to rest, roll each spiral out until it becomes thin, it should be about as thick as a crepe.  Now you're ready to fry!

Place the chapatti dough in a hot, non-stick skillet, frying the first side without any using oil.  Once the dough sets, flip the bread and add a bit of vegetable oil to the pan, lifting the bread slightly to allow the oil to seep underneath.  Now fry until the second side is a nice golden brown:

Okay...the first few were big womp womps, I was afraid and I did not want to eat them:

Then! I discovered the secret: Wait for the bubble! You know when you're making pancakes and those little bubbles/holes form?  Well chapatti does the same thing but it forms a bubble full of gas, once you see this flip that baby over.

Once I got the hang of it, they started looking better!  Here were the final products:

Okay, after I finished all the separate parts I was impressed.  My apartment was still in tact and everything looked and smelled legitimate, but how does all of this taste together?

Well I'll tell you: It was AMAZING, and I'm not just saying that because I cooked it.  I invited a friend over and she also enjoyed the trip to Tanzania...even partaking in seconds! The lemon and cilantro accented the coconut and tomato of the Kuku wa Kapaka, giving the entire meal a note of lightness and freshness, the coconut milk made plain white rice buttery and fragrant, and the chapatti made the perfect flavor sponge, as we used it to soak up the last bits of sauce from our plates.

All in all, this was pretty fun challenge despite my initial panic, and it tasted pretty good! It was a a little difficult but very rewarding to cook an unfamiliar food because now I have something to mix up my dinner and party routines.  If you now have a craving for Tanzanian food, but you don't have $1,500 to spend on a plane ticket, you can find the recipes or links to the recipies I used at the end of the post.

Last, but definitely not least, GRACIAS, ASANTE, and THANK YOU! to everyone who voted for me and Fro and a Fork to advance to Round Two of Project Food Blog! I couldn't be here without you and it means so much to be in this competition!  Hopefully, there will be a Round Three...

Kashia's Tanzanian Feast:  

Kuku wa Kapaka (Chicken in Spiced Coconut/Tomato Sauce) 

Based on a recipe

The Goods:
  • 1 large pot or dutch oven
  • 2 chicken breasts, bone in, skin on, cut into 2 or 3 pieces (a butcher can do this for you)
  • 2 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups of chopped green pepper
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups of water
  • 2 medium and 1 small potato
  • 4 ripe tomatoes
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • fresh cilantro, to garnish
  • lemon wedges, to garnish
The Deed:
  • In a large pot, melt 3 tablespoons of butter.  Saute the onions, green peppers, and garlic until they begin to soften, then add the spices and salt.  Mix well and remove from pot. 
  • Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the pot and brown chicken, starting skin side down.  Once chicken is browned on all sides, remove from pot.  
  • Pour water into the pot, reintroduce the cooked vegetables, add potatoes, and gently boil.  Place the browned chicken back into the pot once the potatoes begin to feel tender, and allow to simmer for 45 minutes to one hour before adding coconut milk and tomatoes.
  • Once coconut milk and tomatoes are added, simmer until sauce thickens, serve over warm coconut rice with chapatti bread, and garnish with lemon wedge and fresh cilantro.
Wali wa Nazi (Rice in Coconut Milk) 

Chapatti (Fried Flat Bread)


  1. This feast looks incredible! I love the epiphany that you had with the chapatti, isn't it great when something just clicks? I'll be voting for you tomorrow!

  2. Jeanne, many thanks! It was so delicious, I've already had thirds! The chapatti was definitely my big ah-ha! moment :) This meal was so much fun to make, I learned a lot!

    Many thanks for the future vote and the love!

  3. YAY for choosing an African country. I chose Zambia. That chapatti looks great though.

  4. Clarice, I just finished reading your entry--awesome, I might have to give it a try! I wonder if anyone else chose an African nation with us?

  5. Wow! What an amazing meal! The flavors sound wonderful and that flatbread makes me wish I could reach through the screen.
    Good luck on've got my vote!

  6. Great research and storytelling! I think you're going to be underrated (hopefully not for long) so you get my vote now to help move along!

  7. Way to go! Glad to see you're in the competition with this one because it's a great entry. You stepped way out of the box, and it all looks good. Voting for you!

  8. @Amy thank you for the compliment and the vote :)
    @The Duo Dishes, thanks! I was a little nervous, but hey when else can I say "I made Tanzanian Food?" Thanks for the vote :)

  9. Your feast looks wonderful! A job well done! Good luck in this round!


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