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Tanzanian Tastes

Side Dishes: Mariam's Restaurant brings African food to Vermont

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Ever wished you could have Wali Na Tambi Wa Kuku Wa Mtindi without leaving the Green Mountains?

The aromatic sautéed chicken dish, bathed in a creamy yogurt sauce and served over rice and fried pasta, is one of the exotic eats at Mariam’s Restaurant in Windsor. The restaurant opened just before the new year.

Owner Jennifer Gagne says she and her fiancé, Ibrahim Mahem, started their new business to fulfill Mahem’s passion for cooking his native Tanzanian cuisine. Peanut Curry Chicken and Samaki — pan-fried salmon in mango sauce — have been among the resto’s most popular dishes, she says. For families with a less-adventurous eater, Mahem also prepares American classics such as golden-brown, from-scratch chicken fingers, burgers and spaghetti with homemade meatballs.

In a setting decorated with posters of African animals and art, the couple, both in their early thirties, serves a selection of South African wines. Gagne says Mahem uses his wide musical knowledge to choose suitable background tunes.

Mahem learned his recipes watching family members at work in their catering business. And he’s following in their footsteps. He and Gagne provide food for special events — even the cake — under the business name Mahem Entertainment. Mahem, a member of the American Disc Jockey Association, also spins at parties, though Gagne says, “He hasn’t done much DJ’ing since we opened. There are only so many hours in the day!”

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