1. Zanzibar Pizza
Don’t let the name surprise you when ordering these crispy stuffed snacks. Most compare the taste of a Zanzibar pizza to a combination of a pancake and crepe. The savory, sweet or vegetarian alternatives leave this food option fit for any time of the day. This popular street food can easily be found from local vendors when passing through Stone Town.
A traditional Tanzanian food, Makande is comprised of corn cooked with coconut milk and beans. It is a dish that is more hard to come by when roaming around Tanzania than others. Makande serves as the staple food of several tribes across the Kilimanjaro region. The best way to enjoy this dish is in a local’s home.
Pilau is a simple yet elegant dish that is typically served during special occasions such as Christmas, New Years and weddings. However, it can also be found in local restaurants throughout Tanzania. This meal consists of a mix of meat, rice, Irish potatoes, and spices such as cinnamon, cardamom and curry. Also, save room as Pilau usually comes with a side salad made with chopped-up chili peppers, onions and tomatoes. This dish originally found its popularity in West India, but has made its way into the coastal areas of Tanzania.
An extremely common Tanzanian staple meal, some even refer to Ugali as Tanzania’s national dish. Ugali consists of a soft dough made from cornmeal and cassava flour that if made correctly, is neither too sticky or too dry. It is usually accompanied with beans, fish, meat, or vegetables on the side. Ugali is typically served in a large bowl that is passed and shared around the table in company. When eating Ugali, the correct way is to take a handful of the dish and form it into an egg shape. You will then dunk this formation into your favorite spicy sauce consisting of vegetables or fish. It is so delicious and easy to make that it would be hard to find a Tanzanian who hasn’t tried this dish before.
5. Chips Mayai
If your craving some junk food while dining in Tanzania, you’ll have to dig into some Chips Mayai. Chips, meaning french fries and mayai, meaning eggs. Yes, this is a french fries omelette. You can find it cooking over some flames in a black wok as a street food. Expect it to be greasy as it is never made without some oil. This dish provides a perfect combination of soft and crunchy. You can even order it with some sides of onions, tomatoes and hot chilies.
6. Nyama Choma
Nyama Choma, also known as grilled meat is popular in Tanzania and throughout the surrounding East African countries. When ordered by the kilogram, it is slowly cooked barbecue style over charcoal on a metal grill to help encourage a natural taste. Nyama Choma is made up of freshly slaughtered goat, fish, or chicken and some seasoned bananas as well. It is then is topped with lemon wedges and a chili sauce known as pili pili. It would not be surprising if some vegetables, Ugali or rice is served on the side with Nyama Choma as well. Never order this dish when in a hurry since this meat takes a minimum of 40 minutes to cook to perfection. Grab a beer or stay by the kitchen and watch your dinner be made. A twist on the classic Nyama Choma is known as ‘kitimoto’, which is roasted pork over charcoal. It is common for this dish to be sauteed with garlic, onion, tomatoes and hot peppers before serving. It is recommended you order this dish from a place where the locals go, and not a fancy restaurant.
7. Chapatti Bread
Similar to Indian flatbread, Chapatti is a flatbread made with no yeast or baking powder. This bread serves as a delicious addition to any special occasion dish. Chapatti is especially popular with the Swahili speaking people of Tanzania. It also makes for a tasty light breakfast along with a cup of Tanzanian coffee. Or if you’d rather wait, pair it later in the day with some soup or stew full of vegetables for dunking.
Translated to the fish, trouper, Mchemsho is specific to the northern area of Tanzania. Compared to other local meals, Mchemsho is a lot more difficult to prepare due to its extensive list of ingredients needed. Just some ingredients include, potatoes, green beans, eggplant, onion, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, bananas, okra, sweet pepper and a mix of spices. It is a popular breakfast food for many Tanzanians before they head out to work for the day.
9. Supu ya Ndizi
Also known as plantain soup, the plantains in Supu ya Ndizi are pounded from their original form into paste. They are then cooked into a chicken stock base seasoned with some salt and pepper.
10. Wali wa Nazi
Popular with the Swahili community living along the coast of the Indian ocean, this dish is based upon rice made with coconut milk. Many choose to add meat, curry or fish to these rich and creamy ingredients.
11. Wali na Maharage
Translated to rice and beans, this plate is often accompanied with meat, vegetables or fish. The rice in this dish is often cooked with coconut milk or oil. For a more interesting and unique version, Wali wa Maharage can be spiced up with flavorings of cumin seeds, cloves, pepper, cardamom or cinnamon.
When experiencing these local dishes, keep in mind the rich Tanzania culture that is infused while making them. You are now challenged to try all 11 during your next trip to Tanzania! You just might be looking up recipes to make some of them, when you return…
Post written by: Kirsten Cusack