October 15, 2014

Making Udi

Dear readers, I am extremely pleased to present to you an udi recipe from Azanian Sea reader, anthropologist and fellow Zanzibar-phile Helen Peeks. I was lucky enough to sit in as several experienced Zanzibar udi makers showed us the basics. What follows is "the basics" of making udi, Zanzibar style. I am by no means an expert at cooking udi, and I doubt Helen would claim to be (although her M.A. thesis on the subject is an invaluable resource). There are many other ways (you can google them). As some of you know, I am mildly obsessed with all types of incense. It is happily an obsession shared by many others in Zanzibar.  Enjoy!

Ingredients for incense (udi)
1 kilo of white sugar
1.5 tea cups of water
0.5 cup of rose water
Boil in a large saucepan with handles

A small packet of white ubani (2oz) of which add several pieces are mixed into the shira (boiled sugar and water) before the wood shavings are added.  The rest will be ground and added to the dry mix.

Add ¼ 
¼ kilo of aloe wood shavings or chips – or any aromatic wood such as agar wood or sandalwood.

After the sugar and water has boiled continue and keep checking it until it forms long threads between your thumb and forefinger.

When the sugar and water mixture is ready add the wood shavings or chips and stir until the mixture starts drying out and turning white.  Spread the mix out on a large tray and then mix in the following ingredients:

Grind and add:
1, Remaining ubani to perfume the incense
2, Kucha otherwise known as Kome which is the trap door part of a sea snail – this is used to make the scent last longer when it is burned.
3, Uvumba which is a lower grade ubani is a grey coloured frankincense – just a pinch as it has an overpowering smell which can overpower the final product.

Perfumes -
1, Half a cup of rose water sprinkled on the dry mix.
2, A bottle of perfumed oil to be added to the mixture (mafuta ya kupikia in Swahili)
3, Three small essence bottles filled with a different coloured oil – yellow, blue and green.  These bottles of oil were bought from the shop ‘Kwa Sharifa’ without any further information.  Names that Izam’s wife suggested for a good quality incense were Channel, Pompier and Riverdoor.  These were later translated to me as cheap oil based versions of Chanel, Reve d’or and Pompeya, all popular French perfumes.

Once the incense had been dried it should be kept in a glass or metal container for longevity.  Most people selling incense pack it in plastic with the expectation it will be used quickly.  The more expensive incense’s are sold in glass jars.

Tools used
Large saucepan with handles to boil the shira.
Large wooden spoon to stir.
Large metal tray to dry the incense.
Jars or plastic pots to store.
Hands to test the shira and mix ingredients.


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