Fried, golden morsels look like chicken dumplings to the untrained Western eye but a bite soon reveals the banana flavour of the popular South African fritters.
The delicious banana mandazi — made from a mix of bananas, eggs, flour and sugar – were among the interesting dishes offered up for tasting to the public at Auberge de Castille in Valletta, yesterday.
Unfamiliar yet enticing spicy smells filled the courtyard, whetting the appetite of those who followed the sign inviting them in to taste, for free, a mix of African food served as part of an integration project organised by SOS Malta.
A chickpea and tomato sauce with a twist of cinnamon, a tasty vegetarian rice and Ghanaian loafs were on the menu and were served by five migrants who were granted refugee status or international protection.
The migrants – from Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan – are serving as cultural ambassadors and will be touring various locations around Malta over the next 18 months to entice people to, literally, taste their culture.
As they dished out the food to curious tasters, the ambassadors, who were trained in food handling techniques, answered questions about the ingredients.
Wearing colourful caps, they peppered their sentences with Maltese words and phrases, such as “trid iktar?” (do you want more?), accompanied by big smiles.
Somali Naima Abdi said she was happy to be sharing parts of her culture with the people in Malta. “This is one Malta but with different cultures,” she said as she served a variety of juices.
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi took the opportunity to pop by for a quick lunch, seeing the event was being held on his office grounds.
By sharing their country’s food they will be transmitting a message of integration, solidarity, tolerance and social inclusion, Claudia Taylor-East from SOS Malta said.
The project, called Same Difference, is co-funded by the European Refugee Fund Annual Programme 2011.
“This project is an integration initiative that seeks to explore what makes people belong in a community and how they might belong more through the interaction of sharing food and experiences,” SOS Malta said.