Tanzania, located on Africa's east coast just south of Kenya, has a diverse and internationally influenced culinary culture. Fruits and spices were introduced into the region by Arab traders, and the cassava root was brought in by the Portuguese in the late 17th century. Tanzanian cuisine relies heavily on grains, rice, spices and fruits. Meats, including chicken and fish, are generally reserved for special occasions.
Ugali is virtually the grandfather of grits in preparation. Ugali is made from three ingredients--white corn, cassava, millet or sorghum flour mixed with water and salt. The ingredients are boiled together until a porridge-like mush is formed. Ugali is eaten as a mushy paste with the fingers, usually to pick up fish, meat, soured milk or vegetable dishes. Ugali is considered as the most common food in Tanzania, eaten in nearly every household.
Similar to a rice pilaf, pilaf is usually eaten as a communal dish as it contains the makings of a whole meal. Pilaf begins with spiced rice, to which meat, chicken or fish is added along with vegetables and or nuts. It can also be eaten as a sweet rice with cinnamon. Pilaf is a Christmas staple for Tanzanians.
Chapatti is a warm flat bread not unlike those in the Middle East. It contains flour, water, oil, salt and onions. They are a savoury snack and usually are eaten along with a stew, rice or wrapped around ugali. Chapatti is also a common tea time item and is usually served alongside chai tea.
The daily drink in Tanzania is tea, particularly chai tea which is drunk at most social gatherings in the afternoons. Coffee is also a popular drink sold by many street vendors. For children, soft drinks and fruit juices, particularly pineapple, orange and tamarind juices, are popular along with sugar cane juice. Tanzanian alcohol consists of beer made from banana known as mbege and distilled grain liquor from millet.
Tanzania is full of street vendors selling snack and quick drinks. Among the most popular of in between meal snacks (Tanzanians only eat two meals a day) are fried sweet breads known as vitumbua and doughnut-like cakes known as maandazi. Other common snacks include sugar cane, peanuts and fresh fruits including tomatoes and papaya.
Bananas and plantains are staples in the Tanzanian diet. They are used in a variety of sweet and savoury dishes. Fried bananas or plantains, known as Ndizi Kaanga, are a popular dessert with the addition of brown sugar, lemon juice, nutmeg and butter.
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