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Tanzania Cuisine
 
 
 

Most food that makes up Tanzanian cuisine is typical throughout all of East Africa. Meat is not widely consumed in comparison with other areas of the continent. Cattle are normally slaughtered only for very special occasions, such as a wedding or the birth of a baby. Cattle, sheep, and goats are raised primarily for their milk and the value they contribute to social status. When meat is consumed, however, nyama choma (grilled meat) and ndayu (roasted, young goat) are most popular.

The Tanzanian diet is largely based on starches such as millet, sorghum, beans, pilaf, and cornmeal. A meal that could be considered the country's national dish is ugali, a stiff dough made of cassava flour, cornmeal (maize), millet, or sorghum, and usually served with a sauce containing either meat, fish, beans, or cooked vegetables. It is typically eaten out of a large bowl that is shared by everyone at the table. Wali (rice) and various samaki (fish) cooked in coconut are the preferred staples for those living in coastal communities.

The introduction of various spices by the Arabs is highly evident in a popular coastal dish, pilau. It consists of rice spiced with curry, cinnamon, cumin, hot peppers, and cloves. Matunda (fruits) and mboga (vegetables) such as plantains, similar to the banana, ndizi (bananas), pawpaw (papaya), biringani (eggplant), nyana (tomatoes), beans, muhogo (cassava), spinach and other greens, and maize (similar to corn) are frequently eaten, many of which are grown in backyard gardens. Ndizi Kaanga (fried bananas or plantains) is a local dish that is very popular with Tanzanians and tourists alike. In the cities, Indian food is abundant.

Chai (tea), the most widely consumed beverage, is typically consumed throughout the day, often while socializing and visiting with friends and family. Sweet fried breads called vitumbua (small rice cakes) are commonly eaten with chai in the mornings, or between meals as a snack. Chapatti (fried flat bread), also served with tea, is a popular snack among children. Street vendors commonly sell freshly ground black coffee in small porcelain cups, soft drinks, and fresh juices made of pineapple, oranges, or sugar cane. Adults enjoy a special banana beer called mbege made in the Kilimanjaro region (northeast Tanzania). Aside from the common serving of fresh fruits or pudding, desserts such as mandazi (deep-fried doughnut-like cakes) are sold by vendors.

The people of Tanzania follow a variety of religions. Roughly one-third of the population is Muslim (believers in Islam) and one-third is Christian. Nearly all of the island of Zanzibar and much of the mainland coastal regions consist of Muslims; most Christians live inland. Hinduism and indigenous beliefs make up the majority of the remaining one-third who believe in a specific religion.

The warm Christmas in Tanzania is a special time for Christians. The majority of people are invited to a guest's house for dinner Christmas night. Pilau (rice dish containing spices), chai, and a chicken, red meat, or seafood dish are usually served. A traditional walk along the beach following dinner may leave some very wet—Christmas falls during East Africa's rainy season.

Ramadan is probably the holiest time of the year for Muslims. During this month-long observance, neither food nor drink may be consumed between sunrise and sunset, often a difficult responsibility in the country's warm temperatures. Eid al-Fitr, the feast that ends the month of fasting, is always eagerly anticipated by Muslims of all ages. In expectation of the feast, vendors sell cassava chips and tamarind juice made from the tamarind (a flat, bean-like, acidic fruit), and some rush to the stores to purchase plantains, fish, dates, and ready-made bags of ugali for the long-awaited meal. To make certain the feast can take place (and that Ramadan has ended), many gather around to listen to the radio, hoping to hear that the new moon has officially arrived in the night sky. When it is announced, children often dress up (similar to Halloween in the United States) and walk from house to house for cake and lemongrass tea.

Secular (nonreligious) holidays also produce a lot of excitement. On August 8 each year, Farmers and Peasants Day is celebrated. On this day, the country pays tribute and expresses appreciation to farmers and peasants for helping to feed the country and keep agriculture thriving. Zanzibar, one of the country's islands, has its own celebration every January 12, marking the anniversary of the island's independence from Britain.

 

 
 

 



 


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