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On red soil

A guide to eating lunch in Dar

1. When hunger strikes in Dar, head your steps towards the end of Garden Avenue in the city centre, near the Botanical Gardens. There are four street kitchens to choose from, sitting side by side, but be sure to choose the one and only original Holiday Out, its name derived from once being seated opposite the Holiday Inn (now the hotel is named Southern Sun), and boasting the cheapest, tastiest and most filling food found around this neck of the woods.

2. Go up to the first wooden table on the right and tell the woman/man sitting behind it what you feel like eating today. Usually the symbolic amount of 1500Tsh (c. 0.75€), written on a little piece of paper and taken to the cooks, will secure you a fulfilling meal.

3. Pass the many plastic tables and chairs placed on the elevated concrete floor under a tin roof and proceed to queue for food. For better service and more scoops, it’s best to smile and go through the usual greetings with the cooks before ordering.

4. Then the food. When the silver tray is taken out, first you have to decide to get wali (cooked rice), ugali (hard maize porridge), pilau (cooked rice seasoned with pilau spice), matoke (steamed banana) or just mboga mboga (vegetables). This is followed by a mandatory scoop of maharage (baked beans), placed in one corner of the tray, and another scoop of mchicha (steamed spinach, sometimes substituted by cassava leaves). Finally, you have a choice of nyama (meat, cow or goat), samaki (fish), kuku (chicken) or makande (mixture of maize and beans), topped off with a red sauce and pili pili (hot pepper) for the brave ones.

5. Sit down and either wait for the smiling-with-one-tooth-missing owner of the next-door drink and fruit shop, noticeable for always wearing a chef’s white hat and a doctor’s white coat, to come and get your drink order, or call in his younger accomplice by shouting kaka (brother) or bosi (boss, always works when you try to get the attention of a male waiter). Maji (water) or sodas are available for 500Tsh (c. 0.25€), and if you feel like splurging, add 1000Tsh (c. 0.50€) and get a huge plate of matunda (fruit) for dessert.

6. Repeat procedure daily until all the workers at Holiday Out know your favourite food, then you can pass by steps 2, 4 and 5 quickly just by saying kama kawaida (like always).

If you are unfortunate enough to miss this culinary delight (despite the run-down look of the place and simple-looking food, I’m actually not being sarcastic – the food is excellent and the place is always packed during lunchtime with Tanzanians (and a chosen few foreigners who are in the know) from the offices nearby) you can cook rice at home, heat up beans from a can and steam some spinach while watching this music video by bongo flava artists Gelly, A.T. and Ray C. Women food vendors, like the ones at Holiday Out, are commonly known as Mama Ntilie.



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