For many traveling to an exotic climate may involve culinary delights, however, finding information on Tanzanian food is a challenge. Is it possible for tourists to eat and enjoy the local food? As let’s face it eat local dishes Tanzanian is not famed for its cuisine. Having said this the coastal regions and Zanzibar have over the centuries had a distinctive Indian influence and some of the local dishes are worth trying!
A first-time safari in Tanzania is an exciting adventure. For many traveling to an exotic climate may involve culinary delights, however, finding information on Tanzanian food is a challenge. Is it possible for tourists to eat and enjoy the local food?
As let’s face it eats local dishes Tanzanian is not famed for its cuisine. Having said this the coastal regions and Zanzibar have over the centuries had a distinctive Indian influence and some of the local dishes are worth trying below is a small example of what to look for when ordering local foods either in your hotel or restaurants.
Kuku Wakupaka: This is pan-fired chicken cooked in coconut milk and local spices – literally translated as ‘painted/coated chicken’. This dish is popular along the coast and in Zanzibar. Delicious it is too.
Samaki wakupake is the fish version of the same dish.
Mtori: Banana Soup: Often eaten at breakfast in Northern Tanzania. It is a soup made from green banana’s and beef short rib, and traditionally cooked over an open fire in a clay pot called a chungu.
Katchubari: sometimes this is served as a chili hot tomato sauce but for me, it is a side salad of slices of onions, cucumber, tomato, and hot bell pepper.
Samaki Chapatti: the Tanzanian chapatti is known to the rest of the world as a roti: Great with spiced coffee or tea for breakfast – Kunduchi Samaki Chapatt this dish is only found north of Dar es Salaam, is a wonderfully flaky chapatti that is stuffed with tuna that has been lightly and magically spiced with local garlic and ginger. Pure heaven!
Marahagwe: dried beans [of which there is a bewildering variety] boiled in a tomato sauce and a sprinkling of peanut flour, this dish is common and not normally an appetizing color, but tastes good.
Matoki: green unripe bananas. There are many varieties of bananas; in fact, just outside of Arusha town, there is a cultural walk that passes over thirty varieties of bananas! The Matoki comes originally from Uganda, served whole or more traditionally mashed with peanuts.
Ugali: Maze flour cooked with water into a stiff porridge. This is a staple diet for many Tanzanians. A great meal if eaten with local spinach. As it is eaten with your right hand, make a ball of Ugali and push your thumb into the center of the ball to form a ‘spoon’ with which you can scoop up your food.
Chai Tangaweizi: This drink is made by boiling milk, and tea leaves and spiced with a variation of the following spices – ginger, black cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, and of course Zanzibar cloves. Usually served sweet. Chai rangi or black tea is great in the hot afternoons when infused with local spices, black pepper or lemon grass.
Mchicha: this is a local spinach. There may variants of local spinach. They vary from very bitter to sublimely sweet. Mchicha is probably the most popular spinach and has small oval leaves and thin stems very good with Ugali.
Mchicha is also used to let someone know they are especially well turned out – use this expression sparingly!
Sorpotel: A dish made in Zanzibar. It has quite a kick as you would expect being made on the Spice Islands. This dish tastes wonderful even if the ingredients are not so fashionable they include the beef tongue, Liver, and pork with spices and chilies, and onion. It melts in the mouth.
Most hotels are now serving a selection of western and traditional Tanzanian dishes. However, if you find yourself on the coast or in Zanzibar – speak to the local people and see where they recommend.
Tourist Information offices are not much help in Dar es Salaam.
However, the Old Fort, Stone Town Zanzibar, and Boma Street Arusha are the best tourist information office ever. Enjoy!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ian Williamson Worked in Southern and Eastern African for 18 years. He regularly returns to Tanzania where he is involved with community projects.