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Zanzibari mashed green bananas (Ndizi Mbichi)

Green bananas, also called plantains, are a staple starch in India, especially in the south. But they are also shared across Africa. Plantains are thought to have originated in Malaysia and spread through India to Africa through the spice trade routes. They soon became a staple and are enjoyed mashed, fried, and stewed across the African continent.

This classic recipe could have been from the Kerala coast. The plantains are slow-cooked in a coconut curry with chillies and a hint of tomato. The sauce is creamy from the coconut, and the plantains are mushy. The curry is brought alive by the fiery chillies, added to taste, as is traditional in Zanzibari cuisine.

Felicia Campbell is an award-winning writer, editor and producer. Her cookbook is more of a historical memoir of the region, its food, its culture and its deep history. This could be one of those cookbooks that you can read as a novel, but I love to rush into my kitchen and cook the dishes, knowing their deep history.

For more recipes from this fabulous cookbook, click here.


4-5 green bananas or plantains

2 tablespoons oil

1 large onion, finely diced

1 tomato, finely diced

1-2 green chillies, sliced in half or to taste

Salt, to taste

2 + 1/2 cups water or stock of your choice

1/2 cup grated dried coconut

Juice of 1/2-1 lime

Cut the tops and stems off the bananas. Make a slit through the skin and peel off the skin gently. Cut the bananas into 4-5 slices, depending on the size of the bananas. Soak in water with a few drops of lime juice so the bananas do not oxidize and turn a nasty colour.

Heat the oil in a pot. Add the onions and sautè till it is golden in colour, about 4-5 minutes on a low flame. Add the tomato, chillies and salt and cook till the tomatoes are broken down, about 5-6 minutes.

Add the 2 cups of water/stock and the drained bananas and bring to a boil. Mix the dried grated coconut with the remaining 1/2 cup water and blitz well until very smooth. Add to the pot. Simmer gently for 20 minutes till the bananas are soft.

Squeeze in the lime juice and mix well. Taste for salt, spice, and tartness. Serve hot as a side dish with meat.

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