One of my greatest curiousities coming to Tanzania was the food. As a cemented lover of the Food Network and all things food related I was most occupied with what culinary delights I’d be introduced to as I travelled far away from Suburban Ontario to Morogoro Tanzania. As the program has just about ended I have a full perspective on the food of Tanzania both with conceptions busted and confirmed. Not surprisingly, what to expect from Tanzania food was represented high on my internet search history and several themes began to appear;
1) Meat is rare with a high number of vegetarians as slaughter is reserved for special occasions
2) Lots of fruits such as banana, coconuts, papaya or mango
3) STARCH! A heavy number of starches were represented including rice, potatoes, pilau, plaintains, beans and the number one starch of Tanzania, ugali (more on it in a bit)
Point number one was immediately dismissed as my vegetarian co-volunteer Ben found out. From the first days of our arrival we found that kuku (chicken), n’gombe (beef) and samaki (fish) are all pretty standard fare in Tanzania most notably on the streets where street vendors sell mshikaki (kebabs of grilled meat) alongside chips mayai, a french fry omelette and chips kuku (chicken and fries). Later in my stay in Tanzania, a fellow volunteer remarked that after a weeklong conference in India where the cuisine was true vegetarian, many Tanzanians were upset with the lack of meat. Myth #1 Busted.
Point number 2 was confirmed with particular swagger throughout our stay in Tanzania. It’s true that ndizi (bananas), maembe (mangos), machungwa (oranges) papai (papaya) pasheni (passion fruit) nazi (coconuts) and parachichi (avacadoes) are all readily available in Tanzania but attention must be paid to when these fruits are in season. Out of season fruits are harder to find and more expensive.
I’ve had the great pleasure (and one or two displeasures) to try many new edibles that otherwise I may not have tried. By far the greatest of these discoveries is finesi or jackfruit. Jackfruit is described as being a member of the mulberry family and growing to gargantuan sizes reaching 80 pounds in weight, up to 36 inches long, 20 inches in diameter making it the largest tree born fruit in the world. Bottom line is that all those numbers equal delicious!
Clockwise from top left: jackfruit on the tree; outside texture; inside fruit; the final exquisite product
I know it may seem odd to devote 3 whole pictures to this mystery fruit but once you’ve tried it, you just know that four pictures and a paragraph don’t do it justice. I will miss this exotic treat when I head back to the Great White North.
Thus brings me to the final frontier of Tanzanian food: Starch. If there was ever a way to describe the way Tanzanians eat, it is starch. Wali na maharagwue (beans and rice) was a dish eaten most often while in Tanzania both in the tea rooms and at home. Additional starches were provided through tembe (noodles), kiazi (potatoes) ndizi and the crème de la crème, ugali.
For a step-by-step guide on how to eat ugali, stay tuned for tomorrow’s post!
– Julie Mather, Youth Ambassador, Tanzania 2011
Julie has recently completed an 8-week volunteer placement with YCI in Morogoro, Tanzania working with a team of three members on a variety of youth development initiatives including WASH (water, sanitation and health) education, environmental education and small enterprise development training.
For more volunteer blogs, check out our Travel Diary category!