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Grilled chicken with Zanzibari sauce (Chicken mishkaki/Dejaj)

Updated: Mar 5, 2023

Mishkaki is derived from the Swahili word for meat grilled over charcoal. It could be beef. lamb or chicken, as in this case. Mishkaki is a common style of food found all over Eastern Africa and varies slightly from country to country. It was developed by the Muslim community in Africa and is very characteristic of this region. This dish is no exception, it is native to Tanzania, specifically to the island of Zanzibar which has a long history of Muslim culture due to the slave trade.

The tender chicken is marinated in yoghurt that tenderizes the chicken and is subtly spiced with Aleppo chilli flakes for a hint of spice and served with the beautiful and silky Zanzibari sauce that compliments the chicken beautifully. Subtle flavours and juicy tender meat characterize this dish.

This cookbook is so much more than a collection of recipes, but is a history of a culture and its contribution to the cuisines of the world. The author has travelled extensively to research this cookbook, and this is evident in the introduction to the book and each recipe. Filled with historical notes and tidbits of information, I can sit and read this cookbook as a novel.

For more recipes from the amazing cookbook, click here.


For the marinade:

1 tomato, diced

1 teaspoon ginger paste

3 garlic cloves

1/2 cup lebneh or Greek yoghurt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper or pul biber

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Salt, to taste

2 lb chicken, pieces of your choice

Cilantro, for garnish

For the Zanzibari sauce:

1 cup water

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

A pinch turmeric

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder, or to taste

Juice of 1/2 lime or lemon

Salt, to taste

Add all the ingredients for the marinade to a small blender and purée to a smooth paste. Add the chicken and mix to coat well. Marinate for at least 2 hours at room temperature or longer in the fridge. I usually make the marinade in the morning and marinate the chicken till dinner time.

While the chicken is marinating, make the Zanzibari sauce. Add all the ingredients, except the lime juice, to a small pot and whisk on a slow flame till the flour has fully incorporated into the sauce and there are no lumps. Cook for an additional 4-5 minutes till the sauce thickens to the consistency of heavy cream. Take off the flame and add the lime juice and stir in. Taste and adjust for salt and tartness.

You can either grill the chicken on a gas or charcoal grill, 5-7 minutes on each side depending on the size of the pieces, or broil it in the oven at 350 F for 15 minutes.

Serve immediately garnished with cilantro and with the sauce on the side.

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