How to Eat like a Local in Tanzania

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Your Guide To Local Tanzania Cuisine

Tanzania's history is filled with encounters and struggles with many different nations from across the globe. These encounters have influenced the cuisine of this country. Inspired by local and international traditions, flavours and fragrances experiencing the food in Tanzania is like an adventure for the tastebuds.

If you planning a trip to this delightful East African, safari's are not the only activities that will make your stay unforgettable. There isn't an experience that can get more culturally authentic than trying out all the local dishes!

Local Flavour With a Little bit of International Influence

Tanzania food has a colourful blend of local, Middle Eastern, India, Portuguese and other European flavours. Although in different parts of Tanzania, the locals eat different types of dishes, the aromatic spices and use of coconut milk are two ingredients that can be found in most of these dishes. These ingredients are rooted in their strong history with Middle Eastern and Indian regions. 

Portuguese influence resulted in the use of cassava and peanuts in their dishes, while the Germans and the British encouraged excessive drinking coffee and tea respectively.

Cultural Norms to Observe During Meal-times

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty around the local cuisine, it's important to remember there are certain cultural norms that should be respected around eating in public spaces. Of course, you are a tourist so all will be forgiven for your local habits, but if you want to give the experience 100%, try incorporating these small habits into your meal-times.

 It is very important to always eat with your right hand, even if you are using a knife and fork, it's respectful to place the food in your mouth with the right hand. This reverses old the western rule of thumb with the use of cutlery. The right-hand rule stems from the Arab and Muslim roots embedded into Tanzanian culture. As there is a large part of the Tanzanian population is Muslim most locals have adopted this habit and is now just an unsaid cultural norm.

Most restaurants and eating establishments are furnished with low stools and tables or seating on the floor supported by mats and pillows. This local norm is strongly influenced by Middle Eastern traditions as well. 

For more on local and cultural norms, refer to our local city guides in Tanzania's top destinations.

7 Authentic Local Dishes Explained

Travelling to new parts of the world often leaves you with so many questions when offered a menu in your new destinations. Have a look at our guide to Tanzania's local dishes, to better prepare your tastebuds.

  1. Ugali: This is one of the most popular dishes in Tanzania. It is served sometimes with Nyama Choma but is a side to any dish. You can pair it with beans or vegetables as well as with a sauce made of fish.
  2. Nyama Choma: This is a fun dish that is barbequed beef that is seasoned and cooked to taste and normally served with candied bananas. There a nice texture to the meat and a nice balance between the sweet and savoury flavours.
  3. Chapatti: This is a fried flatbread that is like Naan but fried. It is one of the staples that you will find in almost any international travellers’ diet.
  4. Wali na Wazi: This is a sweet dessert is made of rice, coconut milk, and water, it is a great after dinner snack. Sometimes this is served as well as the main course.
  5. Ndizi Kaanga: One of the favourites among local people is a dish of fried green bananas. These are mixed with plantains and bananas served with a light sugar sauce.
  6. Chipsi Mayai: This is locally known and called a French-Fried Omelet which is very popular with international travellers as well. You can get these almost anywhere from small stalls to fancy restaurants.
  7. Chai Tea: This is one of the best drinks to have any time of the day. Tanzania is one of the largest tea producers in Africa and it is a fusion of Indian spices and local tea. Chai is warming, healthy and has a robust taste any tea drinker will love.

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