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Tanzania - Cooking and Food[edit | edit source]

Overview of Tanzanian Cuisine History[edit | edit source]

Tanzania is a state in Eastern Africa and it is surrounded by waters: the Indian Ocean and the range of the great African lakes: Malawi, Victoria and Tanganyika. The natural space is various, as Tanzania has both mountains, including volcanoes and fields with a various fauna and flora. The basic occupation of the inhabitants is agriculture and the basic agricultural products are cotton, corn, manioc, rice, sugar cane, acajou nuts, tea, coffee and various spices.

The most common meals from the Tanzanian diet include all the local plants and fruits: rice, Wheat, corn, beans, cabbage, various nuts, bananas, mangos, pineapple and coconut, which is also consumed as milk. Meat is not so frequent, although Chicken is consumed in many styles with rice or the traditional ugali and on the coastal areas, people prefer to eat fish with rice. Added to these, the duckling meat is considered a delicacy and it is only served on special occasions. In general, the Tanzanian cuisine is representative for the African ones, especially for the Eastern regions of Africa: bananas as starch for many meals, fruit drinks, citrus juices, cloves, cinnamons, roasted fish, spicy and curried meals, Wheat, corn, rice and various kinds of home made breads.

Cuisines of Tanzania[edit | edit source]

Map of Tanzania- Click to enlarge

Ugali is a traditional, yet very simple dish which is served with most of the meat dishes all around Tanzania, but not only. Ugali is basically a cornmeal mush, which is made by pounding fresh corn and squeezing out the cornstarch. Ugali also has a breakfast version (used a cereal), called uji or ogi in Western Africa. Ugali can be made of cornmeal grits, buckwheat grits, but in Tanzania, ugali is made of farina or cream of Wheat. couscous is also prepared in Northern America as an ugali and it is boiled in Chicken or beef broth and served with any kind of meat. In Swahili all the thicker mush are called ugali. Depending on the region, there is light ugali made with cornmeal flour and there a darker ugali made with millet flour, but also peanuts.

In Zanzibar, all guests are given cloves to chew before the main meal. Other interesting customs, which have religious bases belonging to different regional groups, say that women shouldn’t eat eggs or Chicken or that men and women shouldn’t eat together at the table or that men should never enter the kitchen. The Masaai people eat only meat, animal blood, animal fat, tree bark and honey – still, recently, they also included grains in their diet.

Preparation Methods for Tanzanian Cooking[edit | edit source]

The Tanzanian cooking doesn’t require many preparations, as the cooking techniques are the same as the other African cuisines and less complicated than the Western ones, as ovens are not always available. The methods applied when cooking are mostly grilling, boiling, and frying (including vegetable oil). The boiling process is very common for all vegetables and cereals (rice, ugali). Citrus fruits are eaten fresh and also, many of the vegetables. Another preparation for the Tanzanian cooking is mashing. Mashing is applied to almost all vegetables and to some fruits, like all types of bananas, especially the ones included in stews, so that they get soft and easier to prepare. The charcoal fire is often used, so that the aliments keep their softness and nutrients, besides the natural flavor. This fire is set outdoors and it serves for the roasted meats (Duck, Chicken and other meats) and plants (bananas, beans, cabbage and other veggies and fruits).

Special Equipment for Tanzanian Cooking[edit | edit source]

The food is served on a large platter which is shared commonly, with a hill of rice in the middle, together with Chicken, fish or mixed kinds of meals and with many spiced veggies. The salad that accompanies the main course is also brought on one single plate, even if there are more people at the table, so the salad is eaten commonly. Tanzanian people use cutlery and medium size plates, without many ornaments. Tanzanian people serve the dinner on a mat on the floor, with some bananas in the centre of it, among leaves and coconuts. Also, bridge tables are very common, especially when having guests. The soup bowls are usually small and large soup dishes are used for the main courses. Tanzanian people don’t use cutlery and they think that food tastes better if eating it with bare hands. Simple bowls and plates are the most common ones and a bowl of water is shared commonly to wash the hands before and after the meal.

Tanzanian Food Traditions and Festivals[edit | edit source]

Tanzanian people are very religious people and value their holidays and celebrations a lot. Due to the fact that there are many groups within the Tanzanian space, there are many different rituals and customs when celebrating on a special occasion. Still, a large part of the Tanzanian people is Muslim and they keep the Islamic Ramadan. In the middle of Sha`ban, people already celebrate in the streets with lights, they exchange gifts and the families visit each other. In the month of Sha`ban, people fast on Mondays and Thursdays and most of the shops are closed, because eating is considered a severe sin. In the hotels, the cafeterias are only opened for the sunset prayer. When breaking the fast, meals like water sweetened with Sugar, rice, fish and many vegetables are consumed. The traditional beer, called mbege and made of banana and the ugali and all kinds of breads are consumed on this occasion. On other celebrations, duckling is also consumed in rich meals and if this is not available, mashed veggies and Chicken are a good celebration meal.

People in Tanzanian Food[edit | edit source]

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Tanzanian people are very friendly and hospitable people, who enjoy cooking and respect their valuable and old traditions. Because so many cereals and vegetables grow in the country, people are familiar to them and know how to use them best. The Tanzanian people carried on the traditions through their cooking and all simple culinary preparations and kept the naturalness of the aliments. The traditional Tanzanian cuisine is exotic, fresh and spiced and for the Tanzanian cooks and chefs, the most important aspect is that their food tastes fresh and natural. There is a wide range of customs and habits when discussing the eating and cooking preparations of the Tanzanian people: women shouldn’t eat eggs or Chicken or that men, women shouldn’t eat together at the table or that men should never enter the kitchen. Besides these, some Tanzanian groups respect the rule that a daughter-in-law shouldn’t eat together with the father-in-law.

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