Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Kiti Moto Experience

One of the local meals I've developed a craving for here in Zanzibar is ironically something that is not readily available on this predominantly Muslim island: kiti moto. It means "hot seat" in Swahili, and refers to a magnificent meal of grilled or roasted pork bits.

I am told by local sources that the name was derived as a code word by Muslims who longed to indulge in the forbidden food, and wanted to tell other sinners about their experience. However, the meaning eventually caught on and it is now widely recognized across Tanzania, much to the disappointment of those few I'm sure.

While visiting friends in Dar a few weeks ago, I had the privilege to indulge in a kiti moto feast of my own. It was heavenly! Because this meal is too good to pass up when visiting mainland Tanzania, I've taken the liberty to list how one goes about experiencing this culinary delight, just in case you're ever in the neighbourhood:

First, find a kiti moto restaurant. They are usually located in discreet locations behind ragged looking buildings surrounded by palm trees (the reason for this is because mass riots broke out in Dar many years ago, started by the city's Muslim population who were scandalized at seeing so many pork dishes being openly served in public). You are in the right place if you see half-carved pig carcasses hanging from rusty meat hooks in what could be a butcher’s kitchen. Plastic tables, chairs and Coca Cola advertisements will also be scattered about the restaurant grounds.

Second, clang the metal bars that separate the kitchen interior from the outside world to get the cook's attention, and then place your order in broken Swahili. About three kilos should do if you are dining with a hungry friend, but ask the cook to cut off a meaty part of the rump, or else you will be served the bony part of the carcas. Pay attention to the pieces of raw meat that will fly off the cook's blood-stained machete when he's hacking out your dinner. It would be a pity to stain your clean white shirt.

Third, sit at a nearby table and order a beer. You may need two to help pass the time since kiti moto is best eaten after it has been slowly grilled to a crisp. When it finally arrives, chopped into bite sized pieces and served on an aluminum platter, breath in the sweet smell of grilled pork bits, and then dig in with your hands. Feel free to throw any bones and indigestible parts onto the ground around you. The stray cats hovering about will eat anything you do not.

Fourth, wash down the salty taste with more beer, and then chew on a chunk of grilled plantain banana to neutralize your palate. When finished, wash your hands with the clothing detergent provided by the waitress, who will pour water over your hands as you scrub. Undo your belt, sit back, and relax for another hour to let the two or more kilos of meat you just devoured digest.

That's the kiti moto experience.

A kiti moto delight as seen at Survey, Dar es Salaam.

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