Tanzania: Menus & Recipes from Africa




Tanzania, formerly called Tanganyika, on the east coast of Africa, is known, for its tropical beaches, great lakes, huge game areas, and majestic snow-capped Kilimanjaro.

Food throughout much of East Africa is similar and, at first, we found the food to be much like that in Kenya. Yet there are subtle differences. Whenever a dish has a Swahili name, it invariably contains coconut and/or bananas. There is coconut milk and curry (made with home- grown curry, differing from the Madras types of curry in its flavor and bright orange color), coconut milk in soups, vegetables, egg dishes, fish, meat and poultry, as well as in dessert dishes. The bananas are used in meat stews as well as with fish and poultry. Ugali, the perennial cornmeal porridge, is the major staple. Rice is also frequently eaten.

A visit to the outdoor market of Dar Es Salaam is a rare experience. Under a huge roof vendors sit cross legged at the sides of their low stands and sell a great variety of fruits and vegetables, chickens, live pigeons, meats, freshly caught fish, and myriad spices. At the "pharmaceutical stands" you can buy many mysterious potions; little bottles: to cure you of snake bite, insect bite, or an unwanted lover. There are also brightly colored powders which you can sprinkle on your lover's Ugali to make him (or her) more amorous, as well as to heal all manner of other ills.

Little shops abound where you can buy kitchen utensils. We brought back a reed sieve for squeezing coconut, a small seat with a round metal edge upon which one sits to grate the fresh coconut, coconut shell dippers, and a metal brazier.

The people are friendly and hospitable, and a guest is shown great deference. It's hard to leave Dar, and when the time comes you say regretfully, "Kwa heri ya kuonana." (Farewell, 'til we meet again.)

How a Dinner is Served in Tanzania

"Jambo Hodi?" (Hello, may I come in?) you ask in Swahili as you enter a Tanzanian home.

"Karibu" (Draw near, you are welcome) is the reply.

To partake of the Tanzanian repast properly you need to be comfortably dressed, perhaps in slacks and a loose shirt, as you will sit on a mat on the floor in the home of your host.

Your host will dip into the Ugali or cassava or rice or other dish with the three fingers of the right hand, and once you have mastered this you will find the taste of the food quite different. You discover how to "work" the stew and vegetables into a loose ball of the right texture so that you can bring it to your mouth without dripping.

The first taste burns your throat slightly, the next taste less so, and you are soon adjusted to the hotness, trying the many dishes spread before you and eating far more than you normally do.

If you are an "honored" guest, as they say in Africa, your hostess has personally selected the duckling which she has cooked with coconut milk. There will also be a banana and meat stew, Ugali or rice or potato or perhaps all of these served in huge bowls, and also a vegetable dish like our braised cabbage. Some of these dishes will be cooked with coconut milk and some with groundnuts (peanuts).

Dessert is always fresh fruit of the region. Tanzanian honey is featured at the Kilimanjaro Hotel of Dar Es Salaam, one of the loveliest hotels in Africa. Honey and coconut are fitting accompaniments to Tanzanian fruits and are especially good with pineapple slices. Any fruit drink is called Squash throughout Africa. The concentrate may be purchased at the market and is always served at dinner.

Hands are washed before and after the meal and wiped on a towel which is passed around.

The hostess and her family are most gracious. When you leave their home you are accompanied right to the door of your car by the entire family.

"Asante sana" (Many thanks for your hospitality) you say.

How You Can Present a Tanzanian Dinner

Of course you are not expected to serve this dinner on a mat on the floor unless you really want to be authentic.

Set the dining-room table with a plain white cloth as a buffet. A hand of bananas might be the centerpiece, decorated with fresh whole coconuts and interspersed with leaves and flowers. Make it look like Africa. Arrange bridge tables with the necessary number of settings. Napkins should be bright prints.

At the end of the table closest to guests as they come in, stack small soup bowls next to the tureen of coconut bean soup. Ask your guests to serve themselves with soup first and to return for the entree dishes. Use large soup dishes for the main course.

The Indian Chapati bread is eaten in Tanzania as it is over much of East Africa. Recipe is on page 209 should you want to make it.

Have small compote dishes next to the pineapple, and the fruit squash in pitchers on the bridge tables.

Coffee or tea may be served later.

Thin pancakes called Chapati Majis are often served as a cake or cookie for dessert with tea or coffee. Make up 4-inch thin pancakes from a pancake mix. Sprinkle with sugar or spread with honey. Fold in half and then in half again. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar.

Menu from Tanzania







    Shopping List for Eight

    Meat and Poultry

    6-lb. duckling

    Fruits and Vegetables

    2 Ibs. onions
    1 Ib. green peppers
    2 Ibs. tomatoes
    4 bananas (if used with duckling)
    2 Ibs. cabbage
    1 large ripe pineapple
    1 box strawberries


    1 16-oz. can kidney beans (or any dried beans)
    2 pkgs. grated or shredded coconut
    1/2 Ib. white rice
    1 box farina or grits
    1 package bouillon cubes
    1 Ib. honey
    2 quarts carbonated fruit drink



      Yield: 2 quarts (8 cups)

    In Tanzania, as in other African countries, soups and sauces are served in a consistency that is as thick as our stews. Coconut Bean Soup would be used there as a meatless main dish by increasing the quantities of beans and rice. However, in adapting this recipe in our test kitchen we thinned it to soup consistency with additional water and served it as a delightful soup course. Any dried beans such as black-eyed peas or pea beans can be used in this soup. Just cover with water and cook until tender before combining them with the other ingredients. Coconut milk and the delicate use of curry give the soup its unusual flavor.

    In a 3-quart saucepan:

    Saute: 1/2 cup ONIONS, chopped finely

    1/2 cup GREEN PEPPERS, chopped finely
    1 tsp. CURRY POWDER
    1 tsp. SALT
    1/4 tsp. PEPPER in
    3 Tbs. MARGARINE OR BUTTER until soft but not brown.

    Add 1 cup FRESH TOMATO cut in 1/2-inch pieces.

    Simmer for two minutes longer.

    Add: 2 1/2 cups KIDNEY BEANS (24-oz. can with liquid)

    2 cups COCONUT MILK (see page 226)
    3 cups WATER.

    Simmer gently for 10 minutes.

    Add 1/2 cup COOKED RICE.

    Correct the seasonings to your taste.

    Serve one-cup portions in attractive soup bowls.

    Garnish each bowl with 1 tsp. SHREDDED COCONUT.


      Yield: 8 portions

    Duckling is a great delicacy in Tanzania and is usually served when there are special guests. The same recipe is used for other meats and is particularly good with veal and chicken. Accompaniments are cooked bananas (a must), rice, potatoes, cassava and Ugali made with white cornmeal.

    In a 6-quart Dutch oven or baking dish:

    Saute: 1 cup ONIONS finely chopped, and

    1 cup TOMATOES in small dice, with
    1 tsp. SALT
    1 tsp. CURRY POWDER (optional)
    1/2 tsp. CRUSHED RED PEPPER (optional) in
    4 Tbs. OIL or MARGARINE until soft.

    Add 1 6-lb. DUCKLING, cut up into about 12 pieces.

    Saute the duckling lightly for 2 or 3 minutes.

    Add 2 quarts WATER

    Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or bake at 350' until duckling is tender.

    Slightly green bananas or plantains may be simmered with the duckling. Or they may be prepared separately and served as a side vegetable. For this allow 1/2 banana per portion or 4 large bananas.


      Cornmeal Mush
      Yield: 8 portions

    One of the foods most frequently used in both East and West Africa is a mush or gruel made by pounding fresh corn and squeezing out the cornstarch. When it is cooked in boiling water to a gruel consistency and used as a breakfast cereal it is called Uji (Ogi, in West Africa). When it is cooked to a thicker consistency, so that it can easily be rolled into a ball, it is called Ugali (Agidi in West Africa).

    As a substitute you can use cornmeal grits or buckwheat grits. Africans in our country use any fine white cereal such as Farina or Cream of Wheat. These cereals are surprisingly tasty when served with meat and poultry gravies. Stone- ground white cornmeal can be purchased in specialty food shops.

    For added flavor, try cooking cornmeal grits, farina, or any cereal in chicken or beef stock instead of water. The cereals absorb the flavor of the stock and make an excellent accompaniment for meats. Rice and couscous, that wonderful semolina grain used so abundantly in North Africa, are delicious when prepared in this way. In Swahili any thick mush is called Ugali. There is a light Ugali made with cornmeal flour and there is a dark Ugali made with millet flour, and often groundnuts (peanuts) are ground in with the mush.

    In a 2-quart saucepan:

    Boil rapidly 1 quart WATER or CHICKEN BROTH.

    Add: 1 tsp. SALT and


    Swirl the cereal into the boiling water and cook according to package directions to a thick heavy mush.

    Keep warm over hot water (in a double boiler) until ready to serve.


      Yield: 8 portions

    In a 3-quart saucepan:

    Saute: 1/2 cup BERMUDA ONIONS (purple), chopped finely

    1 tsp. SALT
    1/4 tsp. CRUSHED RED PEPPER in
    2 oz. OIL or MARGARINE until soft but not brown.

    Add 2 Ibs. CABBAGE cut in 1-inch wedges.

    Saute lightly until cabbage begins to lose its crispness.

    Add 1 cup BEEF STOCK (or 1 cup water and 1 bouillon cube).

    Correct the seasoning to your taste.

    Simmer for 5 minutes.

    Serve in a 2-quart bowl.


      Yield: 8 portions

    Prepare the cabbage using the above method, but add the following to the onions:

    In a small bowl:

    Combine: 1 tsp. SALT

    1/2 tsp. CURRY POWDER
    1/2 tsp. GARLIC POWDER
    1/4 tsp. POWDERED GINGER
    1/2 tsp. CHILI POWDER.

    Saute with the onions and proceed as for Braised Cabbage, above.


      Yield: 8 portions

    Use recipe for Braised Cabbage.

    Leave out the crushed red pepper.

    Add 1 cup COCONUT MILK (see page 226) instead of beef stock.


      Yield: one 9-inch pie

    Prepare one cooked 9-inch pie shell using packaged PIE CRUST.

    In a 2-quart saucepan:

    Bring 1 1/2 cups PAPAYA or GUAVA or APRICOT NECTAR to the boiling point.

    Dissolve: 4 Tbs. CORNSTARCH in

    4 Tbs. LEMON JUICE.

    Add: 4 Tbs. SUGAR and

    1/2 tsp. SALT.

    Add to the nectar and cook until thick and clear. Cool slightly.

    Add 2 cups DICED FRESH FRUIT such as PAPAYA, PINEAPPLE, MELON, ORANGES, GUAVAS, etc., singly or in combination.

    Cool to room temperature.

    Pour into pie shell. Chill.

    Spread with: 1 cup HEAVY CREAM whipped with

    4 Tbs. SUGAR.

    Sprinkle: 1/2 cup MOIST SHREDDED COCONUT mixed with

    1/2 cup CHOPPED PEANUTS over the top.
    Extracts from: Bea Sandler. The African Cookbook. Diane & Leo Dillon (Illust.). New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1993.

    To order a copy of The African Cookbook, please contact:

    The Carol Publishing Group
    600 Madison Avenue
    New York, NY 10022

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