Fish and Chips
Stalls that sell chipsie na samaki (Tanzanian fish and chips) are located on almost every one of Dar’s dusty street corners. The dish tastes almost the same everywhere – slightly salty fish with slightly soggy fries.
A few weeks ago, when I was in Selous, some friends took ER to Kawe Beach House for the city’s best fish and chips. Not salty or soggy, apparently.
Last Friday night, ER and I went to the beach house for dinner so that I could try the fish and chips. Although Kawe Beach House is only about a fifteen minute drive from our house, the bajaj driver managed to get lost. He turned off Old Bagamoyo, puttered down a long and dark dirt road, dropped us off in front of a quiet hotel, and told us that the beach house was a short walk down the street.
Almost immediately after the bajaj left, the owner of the hotel and some of his employees came out to ask where we were going. This is not unusual; I attract a lot of attention in the less touristy areas of Dar and people frequently call after me on the street to ask what I am doing, where I am from, and where I am going.
The owner told us that the beach house was about a ten minute walk down a dark and deserted road and that, under no circumstances, should we walk down the road alone. It’s not safe for a mzungu, the owner insisted, even I am too scared to walk down that road. When we appeared indecisive, the warnings escalated into the realm of the bizarre: just turn around and go back home, these fish and chips are not worth your life. And: if you stay here I will make you some fish and chips at the hotel restaurant. When we continued to contemplate walking to the beach house, the owner offered to drive us in his car. Although the darkened road began to appear ominous, we politely declined.
The hotel owner’s warnings were strange. We were in a safe neighbourhood and it was difficult to determine whether there was a real threat or whether the owner was simply paranoid, joking, or trying to convince us to eat at his restaurant. After deliberating for several minutes, a taxi stopped in front of us and offered to drive us the rest of the way to the restaurant.
Kawe Beach House is not quite a restaurant. Rather, it is an assortment of plastic tables and chairs strewn on a beach. There is music but there are no utensils. A water fountain has been installed in the middle of the yard so that customers can wash their hands. Three spotlights are staggered around the beach and provide limited light. Fish and chips are the only item on the menu, and the beach is alive with cats who feed on the leftover bones.
The fish and chips were fantastic.
We stayed until the waiter came over tell us that the generator had to be turned off for the evening and waited while he phoned a bajaj to come pick us up from the restaurant.
Not sure whether we had successfully evaded a lurking danger, or just a hotel owner out to profit off our insecurities, ER gave me a high five as we turned off the dark road back onto Old Bagamoyo.