The most important tip I can give you on Tanzania local food, and the only one that will make you elevate from being a tourist to becoming a real traveler immersed in the local culture, is “Stay away from McDonalds“. When visiting Tanzania, there is awesome local food to try. Head to the local eateries too, and go where the locals go. For me, the food, wine and and even the water is part of the travel experience.
What to Eat in Tanzania
Produce is often of very high quality. Meat and milk can prove difficult for western taste and diets, so be sure that all meat is cooked through. At hotels, you won’t have any trouble, but if you venture into small villages, make sure that all water is filtered or boiled before drinking and all fruits and vegetables are peeled before eating.
Local dishes include Mtori – cooked beef and bananas – and Mchicha, a vegetable stew with meat or fish in it. If there is anything that can be called Tanzania’s national dish, then Ugali would most likely win out. A polenta-style dish made with corn flour, it accompanies cooked meat and a variety of stews, and it’s eaten with your hands. Recipes vary from village to village, and everyone has their own way of making it. Many foreigners find it bland and unappealing, but it’s worth a try, and some upscale establishments serve it.
Chai Maziwa (chai with milk) is a local favorite and well worth trying if you can handle the large amounts of sugar added to this drink. Street food is also cheap and plentiful. Barbecued maize on the cob is very nice, as are the chipped potatoes (fries), cooked over a roaring fire. Mandazi is a sweet doughnut-styled food that is mostly made fresh each morning.
Great with coffee in the morning, it makes an ideal snack. Tanzania’s large South Asian community ensures that a great variety of restaurants offer cuisine from all parts of that region of the globe. All eateries near Hindu temples (particularly in Dar) are a good bet. Just watch where the local Indians go to eat, and you won’t be disappointed. Most of the food is cooked in large amounts of Ghee, clarified butter, which can be hard for some people to digest. Chips Mayai (chips cooked in an omelet) are served at nearly every African food stand in Tanzania and are considered a Tanzanian specialty. They’re quite good with pili pili (hot sauce).
Northern Tanzania has a number of great coffee plantations. Although coffee does not have the same popularity in Tanzania as it has in Ethiopia, with a bit of searching you can find a decent cup of java, instead of the instant “Africa” coffee that is served in most restaurants. All large hotels in Dar make good coffee. If you want to brew your own cup, Msumbi Coffee Shop, +255 22 260 0380, Sea Cliff Village, sells Tanzanian coffee beans ground or whole, roasted on the premises
What to Drink in Tanzania
The legal drinking/purchasing age of alcoholic beverages is 18. Bottled water is cheap and widely available throughout the country. You shouldn’t drink the tap water unless you have no other option, and it must either be filtered with a high quality filter and purifier or kept at a rolling boil for at least 10 minutes before consumption. Recent tests on tap water have found it contaminated with the e-coli bacteria. Konyagi is a wonderful gin-like beverage, sold only in Tanzania. Domestic beers are Kilimanjaro, Serengeti and Safari, which are western-style and very good. Imports include Tusker, Stella Artois, and Castle.
Tanzania is home to some of the most exotic drinks in the world. Locally produced banana-beer is also available at times, but questionably safe to drink. Traditionally, you will drink this out of a hollowed gourd. First drink the guests, who then pass it to the elders. In some parts of of Tanzania, fermented bamboo juice (Pombe) is the common tipple. Passion fruit, mango, and orange juices are available in many restaurants, and excellent when the fruits are in season. Soft drinks are widely available; Stoney Tangawizi (ginger ale – tangawizi means ‘ginger’, in Swahili) is one of the most popular. Other popular beverages are Orange Fanta, Bitter Lemon, Soda Water, Tonic Water, and Lassi (a sweet or salty yogurt drink).
Other local foods, or drinks that you recommend? Please add and comment.