Kachumbari: Tasty, Specific, Global.

The dish on my mind is “Kachumbari”, a salad popular in East Africa where I’m from. The kachumbari I like to make is a mix of tomatoes and red onions, garnished with coriander (dhania), salt and a dash of lime juice. Many times one can add chilli, though it’s not something I like to add to mine. The reason I am fascinated by kachumbari is because of its existence in different shapes and forms in different parts of the world. A lot of salads in Middle Eastern cultures have this salad, adding to it cucumbers and creating a different vibe to it. In the Americas, I’ve encountered “salsa”, and the “tomato-onion-salt-lime” base remains, above which people can add what they feel works. Historically, the Kenyan/East African kachumbari was derived from the Indian cuisine, kachumber, and so it is no surprise that this particular combination of flavors is common and has been passed across the world over centuries. There is something where the sweetness of the tomatoes meets the sour lime, saltiness(?) of salt and slight bitterness of raw red onions that is seemingly pleasant across continents. The textures are diverse too, and the crunchiness makes a difference as well (soft tomatoes don’t do well, neither do too hard/unripe ones). I like kachumbari because it is so specific. One misstep can ruin everything!! I have family members and friends who like to add their own flavors to the salad, by adding mango, or avocado on top. But for me, I tend to be very specific with tastes, and dislike some of those additions. At the end of the day, kachumbari provides a safe base, where everyone can choose to play around with whatever flavors tickle their fancy. You can never go wrong.

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