Food works like gravity in Tanzania—it will quickly pull you into the country’s orbit of culture and community.
If there is one failsafe strategy to better understand the essence of other people and other places, it’s through your taste buds, through food and drink, and it’s through sharing a meal together.
It’s about slowing down enough to savor the flavors and nuance.
And while you probably won’t find Tanzanian fare exported to the ends of the Earth, it’s because their food and drink is largely a fusion of several major culinary heavyweights. Indian and Middle Eastern spices complement the Tanzanian palate and make for some salivating and delicious meals. Hungry yet?
Photo Credit: Nicholas Triolo
Join us as we embark on a culinary tour from sun-up to sun-down, showcasing the best in Tanzanian food. If you haven’t already gone to eat by the end of the post, we will uncover the three “must-eat” foods in Tanzania.
The sun rises in Tanzania and it’s go time. Like much of East Africa, traditional breakfast here is light. They often include tea or coffee (Tanzania grows some of the finest coffee in the world!) and perhaps bread or chapatti. Another common breakfast is uji, a sweet porridge made from millet or sorghum.
As morning turns into day, you will find that Tanzanian lunch happens from noon to one in the afternoon. It is common to eat communally and with your hands, often scooping up Tanzania’s number one pillar of food: ugali.
By far the most common addition to any Tanzanian plate is ugali, a starchy side made of corn meal or sorghum that everyone, EVERYONE, uses to complement a meal.
Here’s how it works:
First, pinch a handful, then squeeze the ugali into an egg-shaped ball in the palm of your hand, then dip it into your favorite spicy sauce of fish or vegetables.
My stomach just growled in Swahili. Meat consumption is fairly common in Tanzania, enjoyed in the form of goat, beef, chicken, and fish. Though not impossible to be vegetarian in Tanzania, locating reliable protein might be an issue at times. Worry not: there are always rice and beans nearby, and Indian food is a great option, too.
For drinks, sweet beverages such as chai or soda are typical. Sugar is the name of the game in Tanzania.
The sun lowers and with it the temperature too. A typical dinner in Tanzania consists of similar all-stars we found at lunch: grilled meat and sauces, endless ugali, and perhaps rice mixed with spices. Closer to the coast and on the island of Zanzibar, you will find coconut or banana as common flavors.
Green vegetables are also standard sides to complement the starch and meat. Chips (french fries) are also widely available.
To finish your culinary tour of Tanzania, expect to be offered a hearty plate of fresh fruit to end the evening. Tea is also regularly available at the end of the evening.
Three Tanzanian Foods Not to Miss:
1. Nyama Choma
Aside from ugali, nyama choma is another culinary treasure in Tanzania. Nyama choma is Swahili for roasted or grilled meat, and it’s a simple plate offering that covers all your nutritional bases: barbequed beef or goat skewered and served with a side of vegetable and—you guessed it—ugali. Mmmm.
Simple but elegant and filling, pilau is seasoned rice. Tanzania and its Zanzibar archipelago are famous for their historical spice trade, so you will find this Middle Eastern influenced rice dish everywhere. So. Good.
3. Ndizi Kaanga
These are fried plantains or bananas, a very common and popular dish in East African and, more specifically, Tanzania. This is often served as a snack or as a side to a main course as something to push around with sauce or on their own.
We are now heading off to the kitchen, because we just made ourselves hungry by writing this 🙂