Tanzania is a melting pot of cultural ethnicity and this reflects in the food. The local culture is vibrant and lively much like the local dishes you can find populating the menus and market stalls. Zanzibar is also known as Spice Island and you can find plenty of bright and beautiful spices over-spilling at the famous markets of Stone Town. The air around Stone Town is rich with the exotic scent of spices permeating the streets.
Tanzanian dishes generally reflect African cooking techniques comprised of fresh vegetables, locally sourced meat, coconut milk and the traditional spices. Be sure to sample Ugali, a local side dish made from maize flour and rolled into bite sized balls perfect for dipping into fresh and spicy sauces or mopping up rice and meat. Rice is a staple part of the African diet and you can expect to find plenty of grains making up the bulk of most local dishes. Sugary pumpkin and sweet potato are commonly found in local curry dishes and compose the perfect blend of sweet and savoury. A popular afternoon lunch can consist of spiced goat with hot peppers and bright and zingy lime juice whereas a local breakfast can include hot chicken broth and thick and creamy buttermilk.
Thanks to the tropical climate Tanzania is rife with fresh vegetables and delicious jewelled fruits. Ripe avocados, fragrant papaya, golden pineapple and oversized watermelons are often available throughout the year. Its best to pick up homegrown fruit from the roadside stalls laden with colourful fruits from bunches of yellow bananas to zesty bags of oranges.
The abundance of fruit makes for some wonderful opportunities to taste a range of local jams and spreads. Honey is also a local specialty and the colourful pots range from rich amber to pale liquid.
For breakfast and light snacks you can sample the sweet biscuits known as mandazi. Fried plantain, fire roasted corn on the cob and handfuls of fried fruit make for the perfect mid afternoon snack and can be found throughout the city.
When it comes to beverages you can find rainbow coloured juices in abundance, most are freshly squeezed and full of goodness to kick start your day. With the surrounding coffee plantations you can expect the rips scent of dark African coffee to waft through the streets. Tea lovers will be overwhelmed with variety and you can see the Indian influence through the beautifully spiced cups of chai.
Locally sourced beers in Tanzania vary and are often laced with honey, plantain and corn. From light Kenyan brews to darker, thicker tastes the local beers on safari are certainly worth tasting. You may come across the local spirit known as konyagi which is similar to gin in taste and colour.
Many hotels will cater for Western tourists with a wide range of continental options.
The cuisine of Tanzania can be divided into the food off the coast and the rest of Tanzania. With the Lake Victoria region being a specialist cuisine region.
Coastal food reflects the radical mix of indigenous Africans and hundreds of years of Arabic, Asian and ultimately Swahili cooking traditions. Like a stew of food that has been simmering for a long time before the herbs and spices are added.
The staple food of the interior are cereals and in Lake Victoria it is bananas (plantains) all of which are ubiquitous and nourishing. Maze is perhaps the most readily available cereal; either roasted over charcoal or in the home restaurant.
The main food is made with Corn Flour and is called Ugali maize. The corn which is turned into flour by being pounded.
The flour is then slowly cooked with water and becomes a grey porridge. This is then served with a stew of meat or vegetables. The right-hand picks a ball of ugali which is moulded into a small bowl to scoop up gravy and is eaten in one mouthful.
Among many of the tribes especially the maasai much meat, blood and milk is also consumed. Animals are only slaughtered for a celebration however.
Tanzania as many lakes and rivers not to mention the 500 mile coastline so fish and seafood are popular. Fish dishes made of nile perch from lake Victoria are very common.
The Swahili Coast and islands cannot be beaten for fish and seafood snapper, kingfish, crayfish, prawn, lobster, oysters and more. One of Tanzania’s most popular dishes is octopus stew.