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10 Local Cuisines You Have to Try in Tanzania

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Antoinette van Heerden

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Antoinette van Heerden

Author: Antoinette van Heerden - 9 January 2024

Last Update: 20 February 2024

Combining African, Indian, Arab, and European elements, Tanzania’s rich culinary tapestry is a tasty reflection of the country’s diverse cultural influences. Catering to a wide range of tastes, it offers a mouthwatering mix of spicy, sweet, and savory dishes.

You don’t have to be a foodie to appreciate the delicious flavors on offer, just tuck into the 10 local cuisines you have to try in Tanzania.

1. Ugali

The most ubiquitous dish you’ll find in Tanzania, ugali is the country’s most popular staple food.

Ugali with Fish and Greens
Ugali with Fish and Greens

Prepared by adding maize flour to boiling water and stirring until the mixture thickens to a stiff porridge-like consistency, it’s typically served as a side dish alongside stews, curries, and vegetables.

2. Nyama Choma

Nyama Choma is the Swahili translation for “roasted meat”. This dish is prepared by marinating meat (usually goat or beef) with spices before grilling it over an open flame. Enjoying nyama choma is often a social experience accompanied by a cold beer in an outdoor setting. Popular sides are vegetables and sauces.

3. Pilau

A fragrant and spicy rice dish often cooked with beef/chicken, vegetables, and spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves, pilau is heavily influenced by Indian cuisine.

Close up of Pilau being prepared in a pot
Close-up of Pilau being prepared in a pot

 

By cooking the rice in the spicy broth, all the flavors get absorbed in the grains. You’ll often find pilau served during special occasions and celebrations like weddings and birthdays.

4. Mishkaki

Made with marinated and grilled meat (usually beef or chicken), mishkaki are traditional Tanzanian skewers. First the meat is cubed, then marinated in a mix of spices, before being threaded onto skewers and grilled. Mishkaki are a popular street food commonly found in local markets and a favorite snack amongst both tourists and locals.

5. Mchuzi Wa Samaki

This rich and spicy fish stew is prepared by simmering fish in a tomato-based sauce with coconut milk and spices.

A bowl of Mchuzi Wa Samaki
A bowl of Mchuzi Wa Samaki

With its proximity to the Indian Ocean, there’s no shortage of fresh fish in Tanzania, and this dish is especially popular in coastal regions. Mchuzi Wa Samaki is typically accompanied by rice or ugali.

6. Mandazi

Mandazi are deep-fried doughnuts prepared using flour, sugar, coconut milk, and spices like cardamom. The dough squares are fried until golden brown and then dusted with powdered sugar. Mandazi is a popular snack typically served with coffee or tea at breakfast time.

7. Kachumbari

This simple but popular Tanzanian salad is prepared using finely chopped fresh tomatoes, onions, and green chili peppers.

A plate of Kachumbari
A plate of Kachumbari

The salad is then dressed with lemon juice, salt, and sometimes cilantro. Typically served as a side dish, kachumbari adds a healthy dose of freshness and balances out more spicy dishes.

8. Supu Ya Ndizi

To make this dish, green bananas are cooked until tender then mashed into a thick stew. Next, the stew is flavored with coconut milk and spices until it reaches a soup-like consistency. Enjoyed for its creamy texture and tropical flavors, supu ya ndizi is a favorite dish in coastal regions and is typically served with rice.

9. Wali Wa Nazi

This flavorful dish is prepared by cooking rice with coconut milk, water, and spices such as cloves.

Wooden bowl of Wali Wa Nazi
Wooden bowl of Wali Wa Nazi

The result is a slightly sweet and fragrant rice dish that goes well with savory stews and curries. The combination of coconut milk and spices infuses the rice with a distinctive flavor you simply must try for yourself.

10. Vitumbua

These sweet, round rice cakes are prepared using rice flour, coconut milk, sugar, and a touch of cardamom.

Cooked in a special round mold, the result is a fluffy cake with a slightly crispy exterior. Vitumbua are typically prepared at home before being sold by street vendors at bustling Tanzanian markets.

Tanzania is a country waiting to tantalize your taste buds. Whether you’re a meat-lover or a vegetarian, you’re sure to find a range of dishes and exciting flavors to suit your palate. Speak to a safari expert at Discover Africa today and start planning your epic Tanzanian journey.


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