Both dishes are still popular, though there have been major changes, which I’ve explained below.
Burton, Richard – The Lake Regions of Central Africa, Vol. 2 1860
Harfsah, in Kiswahili “bokoboko,” is the roast-beef – the _plat de resistance_ – of the Eastern and African Arab. It is a kind of pudding made with finely-shredded meat, boiled with flour of wheat, rice, or holcus, to the consistence of a thick paste, and eaten with honey or sugar.
Fimi, an Indian word, is synonymous with the muhallibah of Egypt, a thin jelly of milk and water, honey, rice flour, and spices, which takes the place of our substantial northern rice-pudding.
‘Bokoboko’ is an old Kiswahili word that is no longer used. The Kiswahili term for this dish now is ‘Biryani’. Here is how it is made:
- Cook rice and chicken (or another meat) separately.
- Cloves, cardamom seeds, and cinnamon stick can be used to flavor the meat or rice.
- The meat is cooked as a stew to which onions are also added with the spices
- To serve, a layer of rice is placed in a casserole, followed by a layer of the meat, followed by a layer of rice on top.
- The meat’s liquid is added.
This is very similar to ‘maqluba‘, a popular meat-rice dish in Egypt and elsewhere in the middle east, in which the dish is over-ended onto a tray. It is not over-ended here in East Africa.
‘Fimi‘ – a rice pudding mentioned by Sir Richard – also continues to be made in urban areas East Africa influenced by Arab and Swahili cuisine , although the Kiswahili name is now ‘tamu ya wali‘ (‘sweetened rice’).
The pastry chef at the Hotel did not make the rice pudding today, but his dessert table was wonderful:
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