Food: The Good, The Bad, The Strange

When I talk to friends and family back home, a lot of people are asking about what kinds of food I am eating.  So, today I am going to give you the good, the bad, and the strange of Tanzanian food.  Before I tell you about the food, I should probably first explain how it is eaten.  Food is often eaten with the hands (well, the right hand), even foods most Americans wouldn’t dream of eating with our hands.  If you get a utensil, it will be a spoon.  Even if a fork is available, most Tanzanians will stick with a spoon.  So, expect your hands to get messy.  There are some foods I have heard of but haven’t tasted yet.  So, for now, I will stick to what I have eaten.

The Good

Ugali (oo-gah-lee)–Ugali is made from maize meal (corn meal), and it is like a thick, dense polenta.  You roll it in little balls and use it to scoop up other foods.

Rice–Rice is, well, rice.  Some people eat it with a spoon, and some people will roll it into balls like ugali.  Most meals will have either rice or ugali.

Potatoes–Tanzanians eat both regular potatoes and sweet potatoes.  The sweet potatoes, though, are a light color and look like regular potatoes.  They have a more mild taste than the sweet potatoes/yams most Americans would be used to.

Veggies–Tanzanians eat some type of vegetable with most meals.  You would probably recognize most of the veggies.  I’ve had some sort of green (similar to collard greens), cabbage, tomatoes, something like zucchini, cucumber, carrots, and others.  The veggies are often in a sauce of some sort.

Beef–The beef here is quite good.  It is either grilled (in chunks almost like a kabob) or boiled in a sauce.  Though, you are likely to have a considerable amount of fat still on the meat.

Fruit–Most meals also include a piece of fruit.  Usually it’s a piece of banana, but I have also had watermelon, oranges (the oranges have a green peel), and avocado.  I haven’t had any mango, but I think I saw some the other day.  They also eat grilled bananas, which are nice.

Eet-Some-More–These are shortbread biscuits (cookies), which are quite nice.  I’ve had them several times.  I’m sure there are other varieties of short bread cookies, but I’ve only had this brand so far.

Beans–Meals often include beans.  I think I’ve only seen something like a pinto bean.

Ground nuts–Tanzanians eat a lot of ground nuts (peanuts).  It’s one of the most common snacks, and they are pretty cheap.  A single serving size bag, which is maybe a third of a cup of peanuts, is only about thirty cents.

Various other things–One of my co-workers shares snacks with me on a regular basis.  Half the time I don’t know what I’m eating, but it’s usually good.  I’ve had a fried cake/bread thing made from rice flour, and I had something else that was similar but made from lentils.

The Bad

Chicken–The taste of the chicken isn’t terrible, though not great, but the meat is extremely tough.  The skin is left on, and I’ve even had a piece that still had a feather or two.  Most people eat all of the meat, skin, fat, etc, until the bones are clean.  Let’s just say you don’t ever forget to floss on a day you’ve eaten chicken.  The chicken is usually boiled or fried/baked.  Sometimes it is in a sauce, sometimes it is not.

Sardines–I don’t actually know how often people eat sardines, but I had some yesterday.  They were dried sardines, which were then put in a sauce.  They were not my favorite.

The Strange

Guinea Fowl Eggs–So, guinea fowl eggs are not really that strange, but I put them in this section because they aren’t a part of the typical American diet.  You hard boil them and eat them with a little salt.  The taste is different from a chicken egg, but it is not totally unfamiliar.  If you like hard boiled eggs, you will probably like hard boiled guinea fowl eggs.  Most of you might be wondering what, exactly, a guinea fowl is.  I had to look it up myself.  So, here’s a picture.

Locusts–Yes, you read that correctly.  Locusts.  I think they were more like locust larvae.  Nevertheless, they are bugs.  And they look like bugs.  They are deep fried, and I think they have some sort of spice on them.  I ate one, and I will probably not eat any more.  They were not very good.  Not many people eat locusts.  I think it’s just people from a particular region.  One of my co-workers likes them, but another co-worker thought they were strange.


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