About the food of Tanzania

Students at Nyanzwa Primary School in Iringa region. Photo by USAID Africa Bureau.

Students at Nyanzwa Primary School in Iringa region. Photo by USAID Africa Bureau.

A few months ago, my next door neighbor, Jonathan, told me he was going to Tanzania to shoot documentary footage at an orphanage in Tanzania.

“Your going to Tanzania?!” I exclaimed, thrilled with the serendipity of the situation, “Tell me all about the food – what do the children eat?”

Serengeti. Vultures resting in sunset. Photo by Calle v H.

Serengeti. Vultures resting in sunset. Photo by Calle v H.

Over the next several minutes, he enthusiastically described the food of this east African country, possibly most well-known for the breathtaking peak of Mount Kilimanjaro.

(Incidentally, if you ever get the chance to read the autobiographical book Travels, by Michael Crichton, you’ll find a wonderful passage about his hike to the summit of this great mountain).

Kilma'njaro, captured out the window of a flight from Dar es Salaam. Photo by Paul Schaffner.

Kilma’njaro, captured out the window of a flight from Dar es Salaam. Photo by Paul Schaffner.

He said, while the food itself is simple, even outside of the orphanage, it remains utterly craveable. There’s an old Tanzanian saying that states “Little by little, a little becomes a lot.”

And so it is with the food. Even when there is a little, if it is good and the supply keeps coming, it fills the heart and belly to capacity.

Mt. Meru from the roof terrace of Jevas Hotel; Arusha, Tanzania. Photo by Phase9

Mt. Meru from the roof terrace of Jevas Hotel; Arusha, Tanzania. Photo by Phase9

The first food Jonathan mentioned was ugali, the white ball made of cooked corn, cassava, millet or sorghum grain. He said, like in many African countries, Tanzanians use bits of ugali to scoop up sauces and stews. The combination is both filling and satisfying.

Traditional Dance welcoming us into a Ngorongoro Maasai Village / The Maasai are a Nilotic [Nile Valley] ethnic group of semi-nomadic people located in Kenya and northern Tanzania. Photo by Harvey Barrison.

Traditional Dance welcoming us into a Ngorongoro Maasai Village / The Maasai are a Nilotic [Nile Valley] ethnic group of semi-nomadic people located in Kenya and northern Tanzania. Photo by Harvey Barrison.

One of his most favorite dishes is called Kisamvu, which just means cassava leaves [Recipe]. The finely chopped greens are cooked with an assortment of chopped veggies, peanut butter, and a splash of coconut milk. Another fun dish is called Irio  [Recipe], which just means “mashed” – typically a blend of mashed potatoes, corn, and peas.

Near the ocean, fish curries sporting more splashes of coconut milk betray the decided Indian influence in coastal Tanzania.

maps-and-flag-of-tanzania

Maps and flag courtesy of the CIA World Factbook.

Have you ever been to eastern Africa, or even Tanzania?

I’m curious – do you see yourself hiking to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro  or would you rather go fishing at one of the lakes?

I’ve heard the mountain is incredibly taxing, both physically and mentally. 

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Comments

  1. Erica Smith says:

    I’m going to Tanzania in August — I’ll be staying in Bukoba for a month. Thank you for posting these beautiful photos!

  2. I’m climbing Kilimanjaro in October! It will be my first time in Africa. I’m really excited to see what you cook for Tanzania :-)

  3. Melissa T says:

    I lived in Tanzania for a couple of years, so I’m excited to see your posts about the food there! Kids like to eat uji for breakfast, which is a porridge made of corn, milk, and sugar and tastes a little bit like cream of wheat. My favorite breakfast was chapati and chai. Mmmm! They used a ton of oil for the chapati, which may be why I liked it so much…and why I gained 10 pounds in one summer….

  4. I went to Dar es Salaam for a WHO meeting. I just remember eating some new fruits. One was kind of the consistency of an avocado, but sweet. I forget the name. I also think I had a sapota there.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      That fruit sounds intriguing… I can’t imagine what it could be. Is it wrong that when I read “WHO” I think “DR WHO” ?? ;)

  5. I’ve done Kilimanjaro– if you decide that you’re going to make it before you leave the only thing that can possibly get in your way is altitude sickness. Did it as a charity climb– SO worth it!!!

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