Food is an important part of any culture – it is involved in ceremonies, religious events, holidays, as well as every day life. One of the most alluring aspects of traveling to a new place is getting to sample the cuisine, which briefly allows you to take part in the lives of locals.
Tanzanian food is largely indicative of what’s eaten in most of East Africa, with slight variations. A typical meal is centered around a starch, the most notable being ugali, Tanzania’s national meal. It’s made of cornmeal or cassava flour and water, mixed until it reaches a consistency slightly sticker than mashed potatoes. Once prepared, it’s served with a sauce of meat, fish, beans or veggies, and it’s eaten by breaking off a small piece that’s used to scoop the sauce. French fries, or chipsi, is another very popular starch served here.
After ugali, the most popular dish is rice (wali) and beans (maharagwe) served with chapatti, a fried flat bread, and often some kind of meat (nyama) or fish (samaki). The meat is either chicken, beef, or goat, and popular fish are red snapper, king fish, and tuna. This meal is often accompanied by fried plantains or bananas (ndizi) and a chopped up lettuce resembling spinach.
At roadside local joints, meat is grilled over a large BBQ. It is served in larger pieces, or cut up and put on skewers and termed mishkaki, basically a shish kebab. Meat is usually served with chips or rice. Another typical dish is called chips maiai, basically an egg omelet with french fries eaten with ketchup or pili pili, Tanzanian hot sauce.
More elaborate meals involve a plethora of vegetables, like tomatoes, okra, eggplant, and carrots, and use coconut or pumpkin to create sauces or soups.
In Dar es Salaam especially, there is a strong presence of Indian, Chinese and Thai food. Cities along the coast of the Indian Ocean are also influenced by Arab spices like cinnamon, cumin, and cloves.
No matter how much time you’re planning to spend in Tanzania, do your best to taste as much food as possible, especially at the local, more authentic restaurants.
What foods would you add to this delicious list of Tanzanian foods?