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Kachumbali

Yesterday, Fiance and I celebrated the Fourth of July with a Tanzanian favorite, Kachumbali (or Kachumbari).

Kachumbali is a very simple salad that is all kinds of delicious.  It is made up of red onions, tomatoes and salt in its most basic form, and can also include cucumbers, green peppers (not my favorite addition, but respectable), sauteed cabbage, and carrots.

Traditionally kachumbali is served over pilau, a spiced rice dish served at basically all Tanzanian celebrations.  It is also commonly served over chipsi mayai, a street food dish that is an omlet with french fries cooked into it.  It is delicious in either of these settings, hot or cold, and perfectly splendid just on its own as well.

While kachumbali is about as simple as a salad can come, it does require some special attention to bring out its true potential.

1.  The veggies need to be sliced very thinly.  Surprisingly this is best accomplished by holding the tomato or onion or whichever in your hand and slicing around into your palm.

2. Cut the onions first, (baby red onions are the best, but you can really only get the baby ones at the beginning of the season here.  In Tanzania, the little ones were available all the time, because they just picked them all earlier.)  When the onions are all sliced, salt them well, and massage the salt into the onions.  This cuts the sharpness of the onions, and starts to bring out their juices.

3. Add the thinly cut tomato slices next.  The salt will also draw out the acidic juices of the tomato, and this will combine to make the amazing juice that acts as the dressing for this salad.

4.  Add the other thinly sliced vegetables of your choice, mix all together, and allow the kachumbali to sit for a few minutes to really get the juices flowing and allow the veggies to soak in all the flavors of the other veggies.

Don’t turn your back on it too long, or Fiance will finish it off before you’ve had your fill.

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