To finish off the Cooking with Tamie series (I hope you’ve enjoyed it!) here’s some of what I’ve learnt about Tanzanian cookery.
All Tanzanian food is cooked with a lot of oil and salt. Most of these dishes are cooked in saucepans. Very few people have or use ovens. Food is served in hot pots and you help yourself.
Breakfast, or the first meal of the day is after you get to work, often 10am. It’s not unusual for the employer to provide this. It might be chapati or maandazi and perhaps a boiled egg. Definitely tea with lots of sugar!
The staple is ugali which is a stiff porridge made from maize flour. Recipe at the bottom. There is a much runnier version called uji which is for children. Wealthier people, often in towns, may eat rice and beans as their staple.
Other recommended food for children is mashed sweet potato or mashed pumpkin.
There are a number of Indian influences including curries and samosas. Both can be meat or vegetarian.
Dagaa is a tiny dried fish which is very popular and cooked with tomato, onion and garlic. It has a very strong fishy flavour.
Something I haven’t learnt to cook yet is okra. I was told to boil it up with tomato, onion and garlic but when I’ve seen other people cooking it, it’s been a bright green colour!
I have seen cabbages at the market but am yet to observe it in Tanzanian cookery.
Tanzanians love deep fried food (who doesn’t?) especially chips. These are readily available in restaurants or on the street. They may not be salted but you can get (bright pink!) tomato sauce with them.
A children’s variation is a ‘chips omelette‘ which is exactly what it sounds like – an omelette cooked with chips in it.
Another fast food favourite are barbecue skewers with chunks of meat plus some veggies like onion, green capsicum and carrot.
Roadsides stalls sell barbecued maize on the cob as well as fried plantain bananas.
A feast typically includes at least 5 of the following dishes:
- pilau (rice with spices and maybe meat).
- meat, probably beef or goat, stewed with garlic, tomatoes and onions.
- maybe a second meat dish e.g. chicken or fish, boiled and then deep fried.
- greens, often called mchicha, cooked with onions, carrots.
- beans, boiled in coconut milk.
- perhaps a salad – tomato, red onion.
- plantain bananas, cooked in coconut milk, possibly also with tomato, onion and garlic.
Some of these can be every day foods as well depending on wealth but meat is generally a special occasion dish. It is considered polite to serve it whenever you have guests.
Dessert & snacks
Dessert is not a big deal but after a meal you might serve fruit: mangos, avocados, oranges, pineapple, bananas, etc. Fruit is also a snack food.
Biscuits are sold all over Dodoma and often given to children as a treat. So are hard lollies. Chewing gum is popular.
At a special occasion, there is cake. The decorations are more important than the cake itself. (Stay tuned for more on this!)
For a child’s cough, boil a free range egg together honey.
Anything with ginger is considered good for a cold.
There are several roots and fruits that have various medicinal properties, even to curing cancer, but I can’t keep them all straight!
- cup white maize flour
- cup cold water
- In a pot, mix ½ cup of maize flour with cold water.
- Cook in medium heat using a whisker to mix often while adding 1 ½ cup of boiling water. Continue whisking until the mixture starts to boil.
- Lower the heat and let the mixture boil for an additional 5 minutes.
- Increase heat to medium and add the remaining maize flour about 2 tbsp per time, mixing in well. When the mixture acquires a heavy consistency, use a wooden spoon to draw the mixture to one side of the saucepan and then squash it. Repeat until it does not stick to hands and is stiff enough to be used instead of cutlery.
Serve as a side dish with meat and/or vegetable.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.