On my journey to Zanzibar from Mombasa, I knew I arrived at the legendary “Spice Islands” when I saw whitewashed coral reef stone houses, mosques and white sand beaches whispering at me with the alluring scents of spices (cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon & pepper). Zanzibar is a colorful intersection, where East African, Indian & Arabian cultures meet. I walked around narrow, donkey-filled Islamic alleys and went to night bazaars and remote fishing villages. The intoxicating aromas of tropical fruits and freshly-caught fish cooking over charcoal filled the air. My mouth got watery. While standing in the balmy open-air market and staring at a beautiful sunset, I started stuffing my mouth with grilled octopus and cassava. Orange-tailed monkeys quickly passed me by to snatch food from my plate and then climb up one of the trees that surround the nearby mud huts. I smiled at the natural beauty of life in Zanzibar. Everything seemed to be moving with the rhythms of nature. From sunrise to sunset, it felt serene and peaceful.
To replicate that untouched paradise-like “sensory” experience, I’ve decided to make a Zanzibar-style fish in my Californian kitchen this week. First, I mix juice from 1 lemon, 3 teaspoons fresh thyme, 2 garlic cloves (crushed), 2 teaspoons sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper in a small bowl and rub it all over a large Red Snapper. Then, I stuffed 1 bunch green onions (chopped) in the cavity of the fish. Subsequently, I dust the fish with flour and fry both sides in heated grapeseed oil (350F) until golden brown. Separately, I heat extra virgin olive oil and sauté 1 onion (chopped), 1 lb vine-ripe tomatoes & 2 green chili (chopped) with 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1 tablespoon sea salt & 1 teaspoon sugar. Then I add the fried fish back to the pot with a 1/2 cup Sauvignon Blanc & 2 cups boiling water. I let it simmer for 20-30 minutes to cook the fish and get a rich fish broth. Finally, I place the whole fish on the plate, pour the sauce and garnish with 1 mango (chopped & diced) and a ¼ cup fresh parsley.
This dish is so simple, yet so good. Tomato, onion and turmeric, a classic East African coastal spice mix, works extremely well on the fried fish. I pair it with a 2009 Pedroncelli Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc from East Side Vineyards in Sonoma. Clean & crisp, this wine has a refreshing citrus aroma with herbaceous notes. On the palate, a balanced acidity packed with grapefruit, green apple and lemongrass flavors makes this wine a great companion to a Red Snapper, a relatively delicate flavored fish. How nicely every sip cleanses and refreshes the palate! This wine feels like an exhilarating Zanzibarian ocean breeze on a crystal clear day under a blue sky.
I hope the tropical paradise recipe from Zanzibar and a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc from Dry Creek Valley bring a new excitement to your family and friends in your kitchen this Spring. Enjoy the discovery and happy cooking!