In Zanzibar, Delicious Local Food at Passing Show Hotel (Restaurant)

By Mark Wiens 19 Comments
Zanzibari food
Zanzibari food at Passing Show Hotel in Stone Town

Ask just about any local Zanzibari for a great local Zanzibari food restaurant in central Stone Town, and they’ll either point you to Lukmaan (another great restaurant), or Passing Show Hotel.

Both restaurants serve nearly the same menu, a full range of Zanzibari favorites like pilau rice and biryani, and a variety of curries, stews, and greens.

Over the past few years, I’ve been to Zanzibar a number of times, and Passing Show Hotel is a restaurant I never skip (and you shouldn’t either).

By the way… Passing Show Hotel is not really a hotel, but a restaurant – just like in Sri Lanka they sometimes refer to restaurants as hotels.

Clear and simple menu

The menu is clear and simple – I’d say they did a great job with the simplicity of their menu.

You can choose biryani or pilau wither chicken, mutton, fish, beef, or veg, or you can go a totally different route and try the rice with curry (also a great option), or the Passing Show spaghetti (an option I have never explored yet).

There’s also a few other options, and then a bunch of snacks like samosas and mandazis (donuts).

Another speciality at Passing Show Hotel in Stone Town is their tamarind juice, which nearly everyone who eat there gets.

Zanzibari food
Zanzibari food at Passing Show Hotel

What is Zanzibari food?

The islands of Zanzibar, situated just off the coast of Tanzania (not far from Dar Es Salaam), have a long history of trade with Arabs, Portuguese, and Indians.

Spices and culinary techniques from the Middle East and India, paired with the variety of fresh seafood and produce available on Zanzibar, add up to create a wonderful blend of dishes.

Pilau rice and biryani are two of the most common Zanzibari foods, and both of them have origins, perhaps in Persia or India.

Passing Show Hotel
Plate of biryani with fish at Passing Show Hotel

While I probably prefer the Zanzibari curries over at Lukmaan, I think the biryani wins at Passing Show Hotel.

You can choose to get it with chicken, mutton, fish, beef, or veg. Mutton is one of my favorite versions, but it tend to run out quite early in the day as its popular.

The Zanzibar style mutton biryani at Passing Show Hotel is unbelievably tasty, and I’ve had it a number of times before, but this time I went with the fish.

Price – 5000 TZS ($2.90)

Biryani in Zanzibar
Can you taste the rich blend of spices in this sauce!?

For biryani, the rice is cooked, and though it’s colorful, it’s quite plain tasting on its own; There’s just a hint of seasoning, maybe oil on the rice.

Massive flavor…

The massive flavor comes from the biryani sauce, which is piled on the side of the rice with your choice of meat smothered somewhere within it.

I’m not entirely sure about all the ingredients included in the biryani sauce at Passing Show Hotel, and I could taste a light, but well balanced blend of cumin, coriander, onions, garlic, ginger, among many other things.

The sauce was almost caramelized, but not sweet, just an incredibly rich mixture.

Basmati rice
The rice is fluffy and light

The rice, though it looks like a big pile, is not actually all that filling.

You will probably be surprised at how much long grain basmati rice you can eat.

It looks like a lot, but it’s really fluffy and airy.

The rice is prepared quite plain, seasoned maybe with just a hint of spice and a little bit of oil. When paired with the biryani sauce, that’s what makes it incredible.

Pumpkin leaves
Some type of pumpkin leaves

Also at Passing Show Hotel, you can head up to the front of the restaurant and see what other Zanzibari food dishes they’ve prepared for the day – there are usually some prepared curries and side dishes to try.

I decided to get a bowl of green vegetables, which I think they told me was pumpkin leaves. It was excellent, soft and almost creamy. Went well with the biryani.

Price – 2,000 TZS ($1.16)

Zanzibari food
Pilau with fish

Ying (my wife) decided to get the pilau with fish.

Pilau rice is one of the most widely available Zanzibari foods on the island. In villages you can often find it in small hole-in-the-wall restaurants.

For pilau, the rice is cooked with more spices like cumin, coriander, and cinnamon. The rice itself is often more flavorful, though less colorful, than the rice used with biryani.

She got the pilau rice with fish, which came with a nice piece of fried fish, and garnished with some pickled onions on top.

The pilau rice was pretty good, but I’m a bigger fan of the biryani. Pilau can be a bit on the dry side, and I love the saucyness of biryani.

Zanzibari cuisine
Halfway in, and starting to feel amazing

Also, don’t forget to ask for a plate of extra pickled onions, tomatoes, and chilies, these garnishes also add extra awesome flavor to your plate of biryani.

When you go to Zanzibar and are walking around Stone Town, you should either go to Lukmann or Passing Show Hotel, or both. They serve similar dishes, and both are fantastic places to get local Zanzibari food.

Passing Show Hotel
“Passing Show Hotel” – Little sign above the doorway

Passing Show Hotel – Stone Town Zanzibar

How to get there: Passing Show Hotel is located just a 2 minute walk from the Stone Town ferry terminal. From the ferry, walk down Malawi road, you’ll pass Mukhy’s, and then just after Zenji Hotel, you’ll see Passing Show on your right hand side.
Open hours: 7 am – 9 pm daily

19 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • High Rated Gabru

    3 years ago

    Wow!! Awesome info Mark.

  • Ian

    10 years ago

    I’ve never met a biranyi I haven’t liked, but the one you showed off in the post looks particularly tasty!

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Great to hear that Ian, it’s such a wonderful dish.

  • Candice

    10 years ago

    Looking at those photos is making me so hungry right now. I might need to travel to Zanzibar just for the food, because you make it look so delicious.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Hey Candice, thank you for reading, hope you can go to Zanzibar, I know you’ll enjoy the food.

  • Kevin

    10 years ago

    My mouth is watering looking at the biryani. It looks so amazing and very well presented. I am also a huge fan of Pliau so if I am ever in Zanibar I am going to have to without a doubt check out this hotel.

    Also I love how well presented your pics are. You really know how to capture the food just right to get my appetite sparked.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Thank you very much Kevin. When you go to Zanzibar, you’ve got to check this place out.

    • Kevin

      10 years ago

      I am going to for sure! I have been looking up recipes so I can make it myself this weekend but something tells me it won’t be quite as good as the real thing.

    • Jihan

      10 years ago

      i cant believe u were just here in my country!! im glad u enjoyed our food! i feel swahili food can be enjoyed by diff cultures and im glad to see u visited all my favourite restaurants in dar es salaam. im from arab descendants and love how our food is multi cultural and diff! hope u come back again for another adventure! 🙂

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Hi Jihan, thank you for reading and for the comment. The food in Dar and in Zanzibar is so good. I love the mixture of local, Indian, and Arab, makes for so many delicious flavors. Might come back again, would love to. Hope you’re doing well.

  • ammar

    10 years ago

    this delicious foods has Indian background.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Hi Ammar, yes, a big part of the food and culture.

  • Ashley

    10 years ago

    Interesting to learn about Zanzibari food. It looks quite tasty!

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Thank you Ashley, it’s a real melting pot.

  • SaravanaKumar

    10 years ago

    You just showed mouth watering dishes.. now where will I go for Zanzibari Biryani?

  • pauline

    10 years ago

    Sounds like cool place. Do you ever get any stomach problems/diarreha from eating all these different foods, not from how much you eat, but from the mix of different combinations of food dishes on one table?

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Thank you Pauline. I have had diarrhea before, but luckily very rarely do I ever have any problems eating when I travel. I did grow up eating quite a range of foods, and a lot of street food when I was young, so that might have prepared me!

  • Songtham

    10 years ago

    They are all look good. I saw one of you bite on a green pepper in the picture. They serve up their food very spicy.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Thank you Songtham, the food is not cooked too spicy, but luckily they always have some green chilies on the side!