Tanzania Food and Drinks

Tanzania Food and Drinks

Tanzania is a country that offers many gems for travelers – the majestic Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Serengeti, and the pristine beaches of Zanzibar to name a few. But what many travelers often overlook on a trip through Tanzania is the food. Simple, filling and flavorful, what it fails to offer in flash, it will more than make up for in tasty, hearty goodness. Here are five dishes you’ll need to keep an eye out for during your time in the country.

Chipsi Mayai:

Chipsi mayai is Swahili for “chips and eggs” and is a favorite comfort food in Tanzania. In its purest form it is nothing more than a french fries omelette, but that’s exactly where the beauty lies – in its simplicity. You may also notice that french fries in Tanzania are a little different to the west-always made with fresh, hand-cut and peeled potatoes and fried to a crispy yellow. You’ll find chipsi mayai sold at most eateries and outdoor food stands, and locals usually enjoy eating it with toothpicks and a squirt of ketchup. Breakfast of champions!

Nyama Choma:

Nyama choma translates to “grilled meat,” the most common type being goat meat. Normally the meat will be hacked off the carcass and thrown on the grill right in front of you, so you definitely know it’s fresh. Once on the grill it’s left to cook very slowly over some hot coals, giving it a wonderful smoky flavor. You’ll also notice the meat is chewy, gamey and bursting with flavor, a big contrast to the soft and tender steaks we get in the west. The goats aren’t babied in a farm and the meat is not aged, and this is exactly how the locals like it. Nyama choma is best enjoyed with a group of friends; a plate can take up to 45 minutes to an hour to cook, so it’s common for a group to come together and have a few drinks and chat while the goat sits on the grill. As you’ll find out, sitting around a table with friends chewing on goat and sipping on beer is a great way to spend a sunny African afternoon.

Ugali:

Ugali is the most common staple food in Tanzania due to its ease of cooking and affordability. Maize flour and water is cooked slowly until it reaches a dough-like consistency, after which it’s left for a moment to set before being eaten. It is difficult to draw a good comparison, but one could possibly liken it to a cross between polenta and mashed potatoes (maybe).

The correct method of eating is by breaking off a chunk and mashing it into a small ball in the palm of your hand; this is then dipped into your main dish and popped into your mouth. It can be served with almost any main dish, but is popularly eaten with nyama choma or mchuzi, a kind of soup or stew. It can be an odd food to get used to but once you do it can be strangely addictive. Watch out!

Mshikaki:

Mshikaki are skewered pieces of marinated meat cooked slowly over open coals, and you will likely notice a pleasant difference in flavor to the barbecued meat we get in the west. Why? Because African meat just tastes better!

Mshikaki is a favorite street food and you’ll often see it being served outside nightclubs and in open air bars late at night. Mshikaki stands out on the street will usually draw crowds in the early hours of the morning. A variety of meats can be found but the most popular are goat, beef and mutton. The grilling is not rushed and you may have to wait but a little, but the slow cooking is what gives it the beautiful flavor and makes it all worth it. Order at least five or six, because if you order one or two you’ll surely find yourself back in line waiting for more.

While the first thing you associate with Tanzania may not be the food it offers, I can almost guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you find. Don’t be afraid to try new things here; they’re fresh, safe and all around delicious. Happy tasting.

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