GAGGAN & aNDONI x tANZANIA, ParT 2: Cooking

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The paddy Gaggan and Andoni harvested earlier may well end up on the plate of Mama Zai’s customers in Babati Town. Like Andoni’s award-winning restaurant Mugaritz, Mama Zai’s menu changes daily, uses local ingredients and is so popular that it’s hard to get a seat. Andoni, Gaggan and Mama Zai spent a busy lunchtime shift cooking together.

The bustling kitchen was a hub of activity, filled with a variety of staff, customers and family members. In a kitchen with no chopping boards, Mama Zai and her team of assistants use unconventional chopping methods. While the chefs reached for plates to chop on, the women working with Mama Zai chopped the greens while holding a bundle of them in their hands.

Diners don’t choose from a menu but are served with a plate laden with a taste of all the dishes of the day, served with a bowl of finely chopped fresh chilli and tomato relish. This is followed by a sharing plate of freshly cut watermelon, cucumber and avocado served with cocktail sticks. Freshly cut avocado served with chilli and salt is given to diners as a pre-lunch snack.

 
Mama Zai gave me the best meal in this trip, her food was rustic raw, cooked in charcoal in front of us. Her speed, wow! She is no less than all of us as a chef, her skills, presence of mind and passion blew me away.
— Gaggan Anand

Mama Zai had lots of pots on the go with many different dishes including Ugali – traditional maize porridge – stirring this thick, hot paste is no easy task, so the chefs were picking up tips from Mama Zai.

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“Mama Zai is a cook who feeds several dozen people a day. She handles herself with enough ease and dexterity to make anyone feel small.”

Andoni Luis Aduriz