In my Zanzibar Traditional Cookery book, more than 50 of the 60 recipes contain coconut — or nazi in Swahili.
Most probably the coconut tree originates from India and the Malay Peninsula and was distributed by traders sailing the seas.
Centuries ago seafarers had good reasons to bring coconuts on their travels, as a source of food and water, alcohol, sugar and cocos oil.
These days coconut palms are found along the coasts of tropical beaches all over the world.
Nowadays it is considered a main ingredient in Zanzibar and in Swahili cooking in general.
The traditional method to get the coconut milk is grating the inside part of the nuts using an Mbuzi ya nazi.
The mbuzi resembles a small chair with a sharp metal grating tool on one end.
Why it is the same word as for ‘goat’ is still my guess.
The grating itself takes patience, strength and plenty of time; ladies here have these qualities and just sit down to do it. Recently I watched a demonstration and I was impressed.
And this is all after getting inside the coconut — the nuts are hard and must first be split.
One of my own favourite recipes from Zanzibar is “Ndizi mbivu za nazi za mkono.”
Just use ripe bananas, put small pieces in a pot, add lots of coconut milk, pound a few cardamon pods and simmer all together until most liquid has evaporated.
Although it is supposedly served with a maize flour porridge it is lovely by itself because of the intense mix of tropical tastes.
I have to admit that until now I have stuck to cans or powder when I need coconut milk but surely in time I’ll get myself a mbuzi as well!