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Food & Cuisine in Tanzania


It is sometimes hard to tell which part of east Africa you are in when you first taste Tanzanian food. It is all rather similar to food in countries like Kenya, but there are differences, subtle though they are.

One thing is certain - the cuisine in East Africa, and Tanzania specifically, is delicious!

This Tanzania Restaurant Guide explains some of the staple foods of the country, and the dishes you are likely to encounter. Make sure you sample some of the local favourites to give you a real taste of Tanzania

Tanzania Restaurant Guide

Most food items that comes with a Swahili name tag usually have a healthy portion of bananas or coconuts or both in it. Tanzania has its very own version of curry - not to be confused with the vibrant orange kind you'd get in India. The curries here are rich in coconut milk. Then there are the soups (again with a splash of coconut milk) and a variety of different egg, meat, fish, poultry and even vegetarian dishes. Something that is unfamiliar even to the traveller who is used to coconut milk (from years of eating Thai food at the local restaurant at home) is the use of bananas in stews made of meat, poultry and even fish.

Staple dishes

Ugali - A porridge made of cornmeal, this is what most of Tanzania lives off
Rice - The next best thing to Ugali, rice goes with almost anything
Matoke - Mashed bananas
Meats - Mutton or beef is usually served up in stews along with potatoes and a few other vegetables and eaten with rice

Spices like cardamom and clove spice up the local stews and curries, adding a hot touch to the otherwise mild mutton or beef recipes.

The piece de resistance of Tanzanian food has got to be the nyama choma. This goat barbeque is a hot favourite with everyone in Tanzania and, in fact, along the entire east coast. It's also a Kenyan favourite.

Zanzibar has its own special recipes made with fresh catch from the sea. The flavour you'll find running through the food even off the mainland is once again that of the coconut.

If you are staying at a smaller private hotel, you'll get to sample plenty of the local cuisine. Opt for the larger hotel chains and you will have to seek out the real food of Tanzania elsewhere, because all you will get in your hotel restaurants is likely to be international style cooking.  To get a taste of the unique fusion of European and African cooking, you'll need to spend time at a safari camp where the two flavours are blended to perfection.

The outdoor market

Travellers must set aside some time to visit the renowned Dar es Salaam outdoor market - it really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here you will find livestock and fresh fish displayed side by side with colourful farm produce and heavenly spices.

Pharmaceutical stands offer a chance to explore some unknown and rather mysterious looking potions. These tiny bottles profess to do almost anything - from healing an insect bite or wound, to cleansing your body of snake venom to even getting rid of a one-sided love affair or a clingy and unwelcome lover! Pick up some colourful powders to garnish the Ugali of someone you fancy and get them to fall for you! Love potion, Tanzania style

Things to know

Service at your table is routine in restaurants, while bars serve you at the counter. Drinking is not prohibited since the country is secular. The Muslim-dominated Zanzibar, however, does not encourage tipplers and while you can find the odd hotel or restaurant serving drinks, strictly avoid drinking in public.

The national specialities of Tanzania include a variety of seafood like prawns or lobsters cooked up in tantalising curries and stews. You must also save space for tropical fruit like juicy mangoes, sweet pineapples, pawpaws, creamy coconuts and robust bananas to round off any meal.

National drinks

Thanks to years of colonial influence, the British tradition of coffee and tea drinking is taken rather seriously and you'll get to try some superlative teas and coffees while you're here. Locals love their hot drinks!

Cheers...or not!Beer drinkers will be sorely disappointed. The local lager falls short on several counts and you're likely to find the locally famous Safari Lager a letdown. Gin drinkers can order themselves a glass of the popular Konyagi.

For a pleasant chocolatey liqueur with a hint of coconut that just screams Tanzania, try the Afrikoko. You may be tempted to take home a bottle.

Wine connoisseurs can try the rosé or red Dodoma.