With more than a hundred ethic groups in Tanzania, you can be assured of a great variation of foods. The coast features many dishes which are prepared with coconut milk and spices. The heady scents and flavours of saffron, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves are just some of the spices used.
These exotic influences came about with the arrival of Arab merchants on East Coast trade routes more than a thousand years ago. With the settlement of Indian families in Tanzania, the cuisine of the country has evolved again to incorporate spicy tea and foods like samoosas and chapattis. There are a number of Indian restaurants in Dar es Salaam which is the biggest city in the country.
Chai tea is a common drink in Tanzania. This warming beverage is often served at breakfast and at night with dinner. Coffee is another slightly less popular drink taken in the evening and sometimes enjoyed with sweet treats. A fruit cordial called Squash is served at most meals. Tanzanians make their own beer from fruits like bananas (common in the Mount Kilimanjaro region) and also honey or corn.
Sweet snacks include Maandazi - a small triangular sugared donut, nuts, crushed coconut, dried fruit and sometimes popcorn. Street snacks in the cities could include fried sweet potato or plantain (a type of green banana used for cooking purposes).
Other savoury snacks include Vitumbua (rice cakes) and a kind of rice bread, as well as Samosas (fried pastry triangles with fillings), Chapattis (thin flat breads) and corn on the cob.
Ugali (the white doughy serving) usually accompanies any meat stew to add substance but also for scooping, rolling or dipping. Fish is more common with rice at the coast (Pilau and Biryani) while on the mainland you may come across traditional meat dishes such as Nyama Choma or fire roasted meat, Ndizi Nyama or meat with plantains and also Mshikaki which is meat kebabs that have been marinated.
Vegetables used in the main meal or as an accompaniment include leafy greens like spinach and cassava leaves, plus sweet potatoes, pumpkin, peas, beans, okra and braised cabbage. Dessert is often made with fresh fruit in season such as pineapple or papaya and accompanied by honey and coconut.