Fish Curry, Delicious, But Not for The Faint Hearted

The busy hour in Dar es Salaam streets.

Cars, daladala busses, bajajes, bicycles, motorcycles and pedestrians all rush past. Each intent on reaching their destination. In the midst of this, right next to the road we find him … the fish man. Here he has set up his small table displaying the catch of the day.  He quickly agrees to clean our enormous red snapper bought at the local fish market earlier so that we can make Lotus’s famous fish curry for supper.

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Without further ado he takes out his sharp and probably not so clean knife and right there on the side of the busy road starts cleaning the fish on an old piece of wood.

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F4We watch, fascinated by the skill and ease with which he cleans and fillets the fish while busy traffic and pedestrians pass us without even a glance.

F 3Some of us stand far away and vow not to eat tonight. Others know once the fish is cooked and curried using Lotus’s famous recipe they will not be able to resist.

After paying him 5000 Tzs, about 25 ZAR or 2 USD, we leave the fish man hoping he would sell his fish as it is his only means of income. As we head home to cook supper I think about the many informal businesses in this amazing country. No beggars are seen on the streets, but everywhere people use the skills they have to generate an income.

Later that night all agree the fish curry was the best they have ever had. (Even those faint hearted ones  who stood far away during the cleaning process)

Here is the recipe for you to try.

Lotus’s Goan Fish Curry

Any firm white fish  ( about 1 kg) cut into cubes

3 to 4 red onions finely chopped

1 clove of garlic  grated or crushed

fresh ginger peeled and grated ( about  3 tablespoons )

5 ml turmeric

5 ml masala or curry powder

5 ml paprika

chillies to taste

80 ml lemon juice

1 tin of  tomato puree

1 tin coconut cream

salt to taste, olive oil for marinating and frying

Marinate  the fish in half of the garlic, ginger and olive oil.                                   Heat the rest of the olive oil in a pan.  Fry the onions, garlic and ginger until brown. Add the spices, turmeric, masala or curry powder, paprika. Add chillies if you want the curry to be hot.

Brown the fish in the onion and spice mix. Add the tomato puree, lemon juice and coconut milk last. Salt to taste and leave to simmer for about 30 minutes, Do not stir often as the fish will flake.

Serve on a bed of Basmati rice.

The Dancing Dhows and Dugouts of Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar

The Indian Ocean is their ball room floor, the wind and the waves the music to which they have been dancing since as early as 600 BC. They are the numerous dugout canoes and dhows seen plying the waters of the ocean near Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar.

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Watching the dhows from the shore sailing slowly and elegantly past with lateen sails billowing in the wind, I could almost hear the sound of a slow beautiful waltz as they seemed to dance with the wind and the sea in perfect harmony.

On another day when the wind and the waves were stronger I imagined a fast tango with the wind hugging the sail tightly and the Dhow bending and dipping in harmony with the rhythm of the sea and the wind.

The smaller dhows rigged with outboard engines and used to ferry passengers and tourists to and from the surrounding islands and sandbanks, reminded me of teenagers dancing a fast jig, excited about life and all it still holds in store for them.

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Then there were the small dugout canoes which we saw lying forlornly and alone on the shore below the jetty at Slipway in Dar es Salaam. They were waiting with their nets drying in the sun like wall flowers sitting at the side of the ballroom floor. Waiting for a new day to dawn, heralding a fishing trip at sea where they could dance their unique slow dance in tune with waves, the wind and the fisherman.

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nets fishing

Dug out canoes are usually made out of one tree such as a mango tree and are  mostly used to fish in shallow sheltered waters by a single fisherman.

Dhow is the name for a number of sailing vessels using one or more lateen sails. Dhows usually have long thin hulls and are mainly used as trading vessels, carrying heavier merchandise such as fruit and fresh water along the East African coast. The local trading dhows use an outboard engine mainly for maneuvring, while the main means of propulsion still is the sail. Fishing boats also use their engine when actually engaged in fishing with nets.

These canoes as well as traditional dhows are still manufactured in the Nungwi region of Zanzibar and north of Stone Town at the edge of a mangrove rimmed inlet.

I salute these age old seagoing vessels and their crew. May this tradition live long as it adds a certain romance and magic to a visit to these regions.

Rule no. 1 to Survive Living in Africa: Panic Slowly

Early morning in Dar es Salaam. The traffic is a horrifying mess.

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We are on the way to the airport with a  flight to catch.  Cars, buses, taxis, motorbikes and pedestrians all follow their own rules for using the roads. Add to this mix slow moving road repair vehicles and roads under construction and the result is organised  chaos.

Then our taxi driver calmly  announces, he has  a problem with his car and will have to pull over, which he does without any further ado. There we are in the middle of traffic with two middle aged tourists pushing the taxi onto the curb while the ladies watch giggling nervously from the side.

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In no time Kes the taxi driver organised another taxi to take us the rest of the way to the airport. Our  baggage is   hastily transferred to the other vehicle and everyone bundled into the back of the car.

We join the chaos again.
Not without any problems though as we soon find out. This time the problem is a lack of fuel which the driver solves by switching off the car at every red robot or stop in the traffic. With lots of prayers and nervous checking of watches we at last reach the airport only to find that our flight on a local airline has been delayed by two hours!

Two weeks later we are back in Dar es Salaam. This time we are planning a shopping trip to the local kitenge and kanga ducas ( small shops selling  colourful locally produced materials ). As it is situated in the middle of town my daughter said we should rather take a taxi than driving ourselves.

Kes the taxi driver is phoned and he arrives right on time.

Excitedly we set out on our shopping trip only to hear again there is a problem with the car. This time we stop on the  corner of an open lot in the city, with steam and a greenish fluid exploding out of the engine!

Panic 2

That is when my daughter tells us  to ” panic slowly ” the no 1 rule to survive living in an African city.

Resigned to waiting there, I look around me and see a vendor selling fresh fruit and another dispensing  chai and chapattis  ( tea with a local kind of pancake or flatbread ) People are sitting around chatting and drinking tea peacefully.

Not to be left out we  buy some of the fresh fruit and I took these photos with permission of the vendor. After which we again transfer to another taxi to continue our shopping excursion.

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Now back in South Africa I remind myself every morning as I drive to work and taxis and buses frustrate me:


The L List Living:Paradise Found!

Day five Dar es Salaam : 3 November 2012

Imagine bumping along a small dusty road seemingly on the way to nowhere. Suddenly, a gate and  a red clad Masaai complete with a vicious looking knife appears to open it. He takes off at a trot beckoning us to follow him through the bush. The path opens and there it is, a big yellow and blue house sitting on the edge of a cliff with breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean.

The house known as The Bean due to its shape, is situated on the farm Ras Kiroko and boasts its own stretch of unspoilt beach. After unpacking, we walk to the beach down a steep winding footpath through dense bush, past a sign proclaiming Danger Python Crossing! The path suddenly opens spilling us unto the deserted beach.

The house is well equipped and relies solely on solar and windpower for all its electricity needs. The windows have only mosquito mesh to let in the fresh sea  breeze.

We spent a few days here relaxing, swimming, walking along the beach,gathering beautiful shells and enjoying the company of our family.

This weekend was the last of our stay in Tanzania. We will however be back next year to explore more of this country.

Truly a paradise found! 

The L List Living: Three B’s Boat, Bongoyo and Bjaj

Day three in Dar es Salaam:  1 November 2012

The early morning air already holds the promise of heat to come. It is a beautiful sunny day and the water of the Indian Ocean is an incredible shimmery blue.  Today we are on our way to Bongoyo Island for the day.

Bongoyo is a small undeveloped island just a short boat trip from Dar es Salaam and is situated in a marine reserve. More information here Bongoyo Island 

We board the small motorised boat and I feign nonchalance but my heart is beating fast and my breathing is shallow, the result of my fear of boats in general. My desire to experience this trip however overrides my fear and once we are on the way, to my surprise, I actually enjoy the calm trip across the bay.

We are transferred from the boat by a smaller vessel taking us to the shallow water from where we have to wade to the shore.

We reach the island and are greeted by white sand, a few shade umbrellas made from woven palm fronds, a friendly Karibo to Bongoyo and a feeling of utter peace. We spend the morning reading, swimming, walking along the beach and just enjoying the beautiful surroundings.

Lunch is freshly caught fish, cleaned and prepared, then fried on the beach on an open fire by the friendly locals. The fish is accompanied by fried chips and luke warm coke straight from the bottle. A no frills, but delicious lunch.

Late afternoon we return to the mainland and complete this magical day by taking a Bjaj home. A cheap local form of transport available everywhere.

Thus the three B day is complete!