Sunday, September 25, 2011

Seema's Private Kitchen - East Africa in East Asia

Perri perri prawns
A couple of months ago was the first time I had Hindu-influenced East African cuisine. It's a fantastic melting pot of spice-driven fare that's big on seafood and full of fresh flavours. This was held at the chef, Seema's own home, which despite most people's perception of private kitchens, is actually very rare (most Hong Kong homes are simply too small). Seema holds her private dinners twice a month and also teaches cooking classes. (Another place where the private kitchen is also the chef's home is Mandy's Private Kitchen for Caribbean cuisine. Mandy was also at Seema's on the same night!)

This is going to be a terrible blog post because I've forgotten the names of some of the dishes as well as a few of the details. I really can't tell you much more than that everything was delicious and obviously meticulously homecooked by someone who not only knows her stuff, and has great flair in the kitchen. As I'll say again at the end of the post - it all ended in laughter and tipsy-ness - indicative of what an awesome night it was, methinks.

Swahili spiced fish wrapped in banana leaf
Spiced fish unveiled
The lovely Seema
Seema grew up in East Africa. The region was a major hub along the spice route and their cuisine has Swahili, African, Portuguese (and probably more) influences. It shows, for example, in her Perri Perri prawns (pictured above), swiftly followed by an array of rices and curries that we'd associate with Asian cuisine.

Zanzibar garlic pilau
Kuku paka
Chicken and hard boiled eggs in curry. Kuku paka means, literally, "chicken cat" which sounds kind of cute. It comes with a story about a cat wanting to eat it because it's so yummy. I agree with the cat. The coconut milk carries the spices and takes the cough-inducing edge off; the whites of the hardboiled eggs are ever so smooth; it all meshes so well together and made me eat half that huge platter of pilau. The other origin of the name says paka means delicious. Well... either way. Like it says on the tin. Whatever the tin says.

Lamb caffreal
This is lamb cooked with coriander, green chilies and spices, with a smattering of super soft pearl onions.  If I'm not mistaken, it's a dry curry - usually I find them quite intense, but the sweet juices of the onions made it really enjoyable. Not to mention we had pilau.

I've forgotten what the dish is called, but it's a veggie side dish. Seema adapted the recipe, using local spinach instead of the veg that is usually used - available in East Africa of course, but not Hong Kong.

Goa curry (fish)
Funnily enough I also had this recently at the Four Seasons when they had a special menu at The Lounge from a guest chef from Four Seasons Mumbai. The fish used was different (but, great blogger that I am, I've forgotten what both fish varieties were) but the curries themselves tasted different too. Seema's was quite sweet, with a mustard hue, while chef Vikram's was a darkish copper. Both were wonderfully aromatic, but again in their own ways. Each family and chef has their own recipe, evidently. I need to go study my Indian spices before I comment any further...

Tadka Dahl
I learned that night that you're never supposed to share your dahl - I think it's something to do with bad luck. Interesting because the word dahl comes from the Sankrit word meaning 'to split'. The splitting, of course, refers to the lentils/pulses, not the splitting of your meal.

Date pudding with banana, cardamom and dolce de leche
Loved the addition of cardamom into the cold date pudding and dolce de leche. Cold, mushy and sticky - I know I make it sound bad but think of all the good things that are cold (ice cream), mushy (semi-melted ice cream) and sticky (semi-melted ice cream with chocolate syrup).

The perfect end to a fabulous meal. Actually, "end" is the wrong word, because we then proceeded to drink stronger beverages and the conversation turned to crazier topics, though most of it is now a laughter-filled blur... Isn't that the best?

Seema also brought out a copy of the cookbook her mother wrote.

Thanks to @3starbackpacker for organising another private kitchen outing! 

Seema's Private Kitchen 
Private home on Robinson Road 
Hong Kong 
Email Seema at: (at)


  1. it seems that you had a king - or I should say a Queen's dinner! never had east african food ...I want to try! thanks for sharing.

  2. omg this and mandy's kitchen both look fantastic. i cant wait to try them both!

  3. It looks fantastic. How much does this cost per person?

  4. Thanks everyone! It was fantastic!

    Kelly - I can't remember exactly, I think it was something like $500/head?

  5. This place looks very, very promising. It shall be my first foray into private kitchens!

  6. YUM! :) Great photos too! Thanks for sharing it! XX