East Africa

“A Taste of Tanzania” by Miriam Rose Kinunda

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Who is Miriam Rose Kinunda?  
I am the author of the cookbook Taste of Tanzania: Modern Swahili Recipes for the West.  I am also a blogger at TasteofTanzania.com

I was born in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1969. I love to draw flowers, listening to music, sewing and I enjoy watching movies a lot.

What inspired you to start blogging on food and the love of cooking?
I had a few request of recipes from friends, who are my inspiration, so instead of emailing them my recipes one by one, I decided to share them online without realizing it would become something big.

Before that, I always loved to cook. I love good food. After my father moved to work in Kenya in 1980, I remember every school holiday when I went to visit Nairobi. He would take us out every Sunday to fancy restaurants to have dinner. That became a family tradition. I loved the food I used to eat prepared by experienced chef, and I promised myself I would want to be like them one day.

After I finished form six, I wanted to join a hotel management college in Kenya to become a chef, but for some reasons, that did not happen. But my love of cooking continued.

What is your unique cooking style?
My style of cooking is aromatic, specializing in Swahili cuisine. Spices mixed in stews is very important in almost every meal. In my everyday cooking, I mostly use fresh ingredients. The only canned ingredient I use in my house is tomato paste; I would only use a canned ingredient if I do not have any other choice at all.

What are the most popular cuisines you do?
The popular cuisine I prepare in my house is pilau. My guests love Holiday pilau, and I can never go wrong with it.Holiday pilau is rice cooked with pilau masala, raisins, cashew nuts, more spices and a few other ingredients. Raisins make the rice to be very sweet and perfect for Christmas or Muslim Eid celebrations.

What is the most favourite dish to your followers who are non-Tanzanian?
For those who have visited Tanzania, they seem to appreciate the chapati recipe. Since the book has been out, I have received enquiries about the simple salads, mainly the cucumber salad. They cannot believe that its simplicity creates such a distinct taste.

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Is all your cuisine influenced by Tanzanian dishes or have you got some other dishes like Uganda, Nigeria etc.?
My food is influenced by the Swahili found in Tanzania, and other East Africa countries including, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and some non-East African countries. I have come to learn from my Somalian followers that many of my recipes are the same as Somalian recipes.

What is one of the native dishes in Tanzanian?
Ugali,which is a mixture of water and maize, cassava, wheat, rice, potatoes, or millet flour.Similar to Italian polenta but harder in texture.Ugali is a side dish that can be accompanied with vegetables and meat.

Do you have plans to establish a Taste of Tanzania restaurant in the USA or the Western world?
I have that in mind, for sure. I am waiting to see what God will bring in near future.

What city or town in Tanzania you would advise tourists to sample some of the best dishes Tanzania has to offer?
That will be Dar Es Salaam and Zanzibar.

You published a cook book ‘Taste of Tanzania’. Tell us more about it and how has it been received.

I wrote a cookbook called ‘Taste of Tanzania: Modern Swahili Recipes for the West’. It is has been well received for a newcomer. The challenge now is to distribute the book outside the USA as people are asking for the book from Africa, Europe, Canada and Asian countries.

I have started another edition of this current cookbook.The new subtitle will be Modern Swahili Recipesso that the book can appeal Internationally.  Another about Swahili recipes will follow, called Taste of Tanzania. I would like to publish one book a year.

I also own the ‘Taste of Tanzania’ Spice brand, and I have currently on sale the PilauMasalaspices that you can buy onAmazon.com and TasteofTanzania.com. Pilau Masala is a blend of spices used to prepare aromatic rice dishes, curries and barbecue meat.

In Europe and Scandinavia, Ethiopian cuisine is very popular. Why do you think Westerners are not too keen on other African food?
Westerners will be keen to try other African food if they know about it. Based on my experience, it is very hard to convince book stores to sell my kind of book. They have already made their mind up that people will not buy it. I believe if the media will talk about our food, and bookstores keep some copies, Westerners will get familiarised with our food.

We need to work harder with the media first, because the Westerners will try anything they hear from in their media, and once they try and realize it is good food, they will be interested as well.

And we need to have nicer and cleaner restaurants, meeting modern standards with good service to compete.

What are your favourite African dishes?
I am a seafood person, so I have to say prawns in coconut sauce. Very simple but full of flavour.

Any techniques to those mothers and wives who want to give the best to their family?
I have always involved my daughter in the kitchen since she was 3 years old. She would ask to help, and I never said “no”. I learned early that when you say no to a child, she or he would start to doubt him/herself. Soallow the child to mix a cake, even for one minute andallow her to taste the cake mix.  The child will grow to be happy to help in the kitchen. I have done that with my daughter and it has worked well.

Women should also challenge their husbands to cut tomatoes and wash dishes while they talk about their day or about the previous week. Women should not ask their husband to help in the kitchen then themselves disappear! They should have something to talk about while both are in the kitchen and call that family time!

Any tips to others on trying to venture into food blogging and cook books?
One must love what they are doing. If they love what they are doing, they will always find a way to be successful. Lastly, be unique!

Miriam Kinunda is one of the first African food bloggers. Miriam first began blogging in 2004 into what has now become “A Taste of Tanzania” food blog and a large database of Tanzanian dishes to try. She also accompanies her posts with detailed and popular youtube videos — making her the definitive voice on Tanzanian food online. I’ve already tried some of the recipes including this “Coconut Rice with Carrots and Peas” dish.
Youtube: TasteofTanzania

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