As I traveled throughout Tanzania, food tasting became a favorite activity of mine. I spent most mornings deciding what kind of bread would be best for breakfast. There’s an endless amount of breads to choose from…chapati, keki, sambusa, mandazi, etc. Needless to say, I loaded up on carbs every day while I was there. The best part of breakfast, however, was the warm, rich cup of chai we’d get each day. Chai is a Tanzanian favorite and the taste of the creamy spiced tea differs depending on what area of Tanzania you travel to.
One of my first stops was in Dar Es Salam. We visited the fish market there and were lucky enough to try some of the most flavorful fish I’d ever eaten. Many restaurants we went to in Dar had “Samaki na Chipsi”, (fish and essentially their version of French fries). Some other classic Tanzanian meals consisted of lamb, beef, and chicken, which were usually served with beans, vegetables, or rice. Rice, it just so happens, is one of my favorite foods, and the rice I ate in Tanzania was incredible. It was so fresh and there was always more than enough to share. There were many other markets to visit as well. While attending school in Iringa, the marketplace was right down the road. I could buy anything, from fruits to veggies to meats. I often bought mangoes, avocados, and crackers.
While living with my host family, the locally grown/made food amazed me; corn, potatoes, tomatoes, chicken, rice, rich chai (there were chai fields all over), chipsi mayaai (another Tanzanian classic- french fries and egg), and more bread. Everywhere I visited, I was offered food. Ugali is the one and only Tanzanian food I did not care for. It’s essentially cornmeal and water cooked and stirred together until it forms this white play-Doh-like substance. It doesn’t have much of a taste and is eaten to fill you up.
The best experience I had while abroad, however, was centered on the process of making food. Firstly, you need to have a lot of patience; Tanzanians like to take their time in preparation of food. One day, we actually cooked our own feast with the help of some local Tanzanian friends. Also, I can’t even count the amount of times my friends and I ended up at someone’s home eating with a family or new friends we’d just met, all gathered on the floor at times, eating with our hands while gorging ourselves. It made the entire process of eating more intimate and it felt like I’d found a new home.
By OGO Peer Advisor Bailey Noonan