Growing up, my cousins and I would call this recipe “yellow potatoes”; none of us could pronounce the Swahili name, and back then, we wanted it to sound “normal”. This has to be our most famous streetfood meal in Zanzibar. It’s a very simple recipe, yet elite within the community. To help tourists, it’s now known as “Zanzibar mix”.
The concept behind this soup is that you layer it according to your cravings. So you start with your base of potato soup, then choose from a selection of Zanzibari snacks to include in it, such as bajiyas (mung bean falafels), meat skewers, kachori (potato balls), tamarind water or paste, chilli sauce, coconut and coriander chutney and, to top it o$, shredded cassava crisps. I add every single element possible, dropping them in and mixing it around before slurping away.
Making all these extra parts can be time consuming, though; my mum tells me that when she worked for the Royal Oman Police, she and her cousin Suki would round up their friends every week and they’d all bring in one element. They’d set up shop in the office as soon as they arrived at 7am, and have this for their breakfast.
Since she moved to England, she’s continued the same concept, getting all the women in the family to prepare a part for our gatherings, and creating our own food stall inside the house.
I make this constantly, especially in the winter, as it’s so easy and comforting. I got into the habit of adding chickpeas, just to give it an extra dimension. While I don’t always have the extra elements at my disposal, I do mimic the crunchy cassava by sprinkling over some Bombay mix or a mixture of cornflakes with salt-and-vinegar crisps!
This recipe is extracted from Bahari: Recipes from an Omani Kitchen and Beyond by Dina Macki (DK) Photography: Patricia Niven, 2024
Ingredients for Mbatata za Urojo
- Salt-and-vinegar crisps
- Sev or Bombay mix
How to make Mbatata za Urojo
- In a large saucepan, combine the oil, flour, garlic powder and turmeric over a medium heat, whisking together to form a paste. Slowly pour in about 200ml of water, whisking as you go to stop any lumps from forming.
- Increase the heat to high, then pour in another 800ml of water, followed by the chillies. Season with salt and bring to the boil.
- Once it’s bubbling, add the potatoes. If your water looks red, add a dash of lemon – the turmeric needs acidity to stay yellow. Leave the potatoes to cook for 15–20 minutes, then add the chickpeas. The water should just cover the potatoes; you don’t want too much, as it will take a lot longer to thicken.
- Cook for a further 10 minutes, then add the lemon juice and taste for seasoning, adding more salt if needed. At this point, you can add the tamarind paste, if you like. If not, you can add some extra lemon if you want it more acidic. For me, the more lemon, the better!
- Sprinkle on your chosen garnishes and serve.