| Food | Utali Restaurant

This is Tamin also affectionately known as Coconut. When he is not trying to impress us with his tree acrobatics, he is takes a few visitors to Zanzibar on snorkelling trips into crystalline waters on an old fishing boat. This is exactly how he met Hiro and our friend.

Hiro talked Tamin into taking us to his favourite eating place one evening. He took us to a small roadside place that looked much like someone’s front porch with a precarious make shift table outside. Despite the name Utali Restaurant (utali means tourist), not a single tourist was about, just a throng of exuberant locals.

The tourist books will advise against walking round at night in Zanzibar. Not so much out of fear of crime but mainly because of the lack of street lights. The road, ditches and pavements are very hard to tell apart in daylight let alone in the dark. 

Food at the Utali Restaurant was bountiful  and we could just walk up and order what we liked the look of and it would be heated and served up in no time. Tanzanians don’t do rare and very well cooked beef, chicken, goat meat seemed popular but other local street faves such as mandaazi (Swahili donuts), chapattis and a jam were on offer. Though I really enjoyed my chicken skewers, I regret that I didn’t also have a serving of chips-mayai which is basically a chip omelette (fries to my American readers). Sounds odd but it is so good and a real childhood favourite of mine. 

We had so much fun watching the comings and going of the locals and laughing with the kids. While we were eating Tamin told us that he wants to learn English so that he can get a permanent job at Evergreen Bungalows (featured here). Even though his English sounded good enough to me, he insisted that by learning more he would be able to make a better life for himself. He told me that he likes to make people happy who this is why he likes climbing trees, because it makes people smile when they see him all the way up there.


Tanzanians and Zanzibarians have a very particular etiquette when it comes to food. While the hotels and more formal establishments will be more used to receiving visitors from abroad and will provide knives and forks, places that are off the tourist radar won’t so you will need to make like a local and get stuck in with your hands. Here are a few pointers:

  • ALWAYS wash your hands before dining. No matter how small or makeshift the place there will be somewhere to wash your hands…ALWAYS.
  • NEVER touch any food that you plan on eating with your left hand. In fact don’t touch any food with your left hand at the dining table.
  • ALWAYS be gracious and even if you don’t like the look of what you are given, try a bit! Food does not come easy and it takes work to prepare a meal. Respect goes a long way here.
  • NEVER be so childish or rude to screw up your face or show dislike for the food. Remember where you are and how fortunate you are. 
  • TRY to not talk too much when you are eating. It is seen as polite to wait till the food is finished before you strike up a conversation.
  • ALWAYS thank your host for the food.