Prawn Dhansak – a spicy taste of the Islands
I love using herbs and spices in traditional recipes and in ‘experimental’ ones.
I think often one can travel to far and exotic destinations, just by using new or unexplored spices in the kitchen. It’s one of my greatest joys when travelling to bring back spices that are indigenous to or grown well in a country. It’s true that most spices can be found at home in South Africa now, but it means more to me (Customs allowing) to bring back a crumpled brown paper bag of spices, a favourite “local mix” or dried herbs than it does to bring back a touristy souvenir. Though, I do have a thing for fridge magnets and try to restrict myself to a maximum of two. For holding up treasured photos and recipes, you know.
I must admit, I was thrilled at this week’s recipe brief: Spice Challenge. Combining seafood, spices and fruit as the brief required, made me think of the spice Islands Mauritius and Zanzibar.
I visited Zanzibar and its spice plantations where a large variety from tamarind to vanilla are grown. Cloves were the most popular spice from Zanzibar a few centuries ago- did you know? It is a fascinating romantic island, with an exotic blend of Indian, Arabic and European architecture and influence and a mixture of crumbling buildings and palaces, sadly juxtaposed.
Zanzibar was at a stage a melting pot of cultures due to it being ideally positioned on the Spice Route during the 16th century and heavily influenced by the Persians, Chinese and Indians amongst others. The spicy cardamom Zanzibari coffee available everywhere is one example of how the country loves and incorporates spices in a popular everyday drink. I’ve written a short guide on the Darajani Food market and the Forodhani Night market in a earlier post on the blog.
Stone Town, Zanzibar is also famously the birth place of rock band Queen’s lead singer Freddie Mercury, born Farrokh Bulsara and of Parsi origin. One of his family’s houses still stands on Kenyatta street (now a gift shop). I thought a dhansak, which is a Parsi dish, or credited to the Parsis at least would be fitting for this challenge.
Dhansak is a curry dish using lentils and would traditionally be made with goat or lamb. Chicken and vegetarian dhansaks are also popular these days.
I used Tiger prawns in this one, pureed mango and pineapple and served it over basmati rice with a mango and pineapple salsa.