5 Bites of Tanzania

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The best dishes to try 'Out of (East) Africa'

Dishes served in Tanzanian tell a story that dates back thousands of years. Long ago, Arab traders settled along East Africa’s coast, which was overtaken by the Portuguese, and much later, the British and Indians. As a result, ingredients like saffron, chiles, orange, pig, and lentils became a part of daily diets throughout Tanzania, as did methods of cooking like marinating.

To get the lowdown on how to eat like a local while in Tanzania, The Daily Meal traveled to Singita Game Reserves and got recommendations from the locals who work at the lodge.

Most travelers find that dining out options in Tanzania are largely limited to dining at the lodges, which prepare regional cuisine to feast on after a day out on safari. The following are the five local bites to order while on safari and a cheat sheet for whipping up some of the region’s best in your own kitchen.

Breakfast: Choroko is both a traditional breakfast and lunch dish, but its preparation varies regionally within Tanzania, based on whichever ingredients are most easily accessible.

You’ll find choroko on the menu at nearly every lodge. It's made by cooking green lentils, which are then drained and mixed with sautéed and thinly sliced onion. Tanzanian mainlanders add peanut butter to the dish, while those on the coast prefer fresh coconut milk. For a richer consistency, do as the farmers do, and add cream.

Lunch: At Singita, potjiekos, a traditional stew is simmered for hours over an open fire in a three-legged cast-iron pot (the potjie). The main ingredient is oxtail, and it's mixed with red wine, sherry, mushrooms, garlic, leeks, bay leaves, and tomato. The stew is often ladled onto the country’s staple starch, ugali, a thick cornmeal mixture.

Snack: Dagaa za bamia, a fish and okra dish from the Mara region, is a must-try when taking a break from visiting the Masai Mara region. Another snack to try is dagaa wa kukaanga. The restaurant at Faru Faru does a delightful rendition of the dish, a palate-teaser of crispy whitebait fish served on circular ugali. These miniature fish — no bigger than the size of a pinky finger — are sourced from East African lakes and eaten by the handful or sprinkled atop ugali.

Drink: One of the most popular cocktails in Tanzania is known as "dawa" or "medicine" because it’s purported to cure all sorts of ailments; whatever’s bothering you, really. Plus, it’s cold. After a hot day on safari, sometimes that’s all that really matters. There are lots of versions out there, but one of the tastiest, served upon request at Faru Faru, has vodka, lime, sugar, crushed ice, and a honey stick.

Dinner: You’ll find nyama choma, charcoal-roasted goat or beef, in homes and roadside restaurants all over the country. One of the best versions is served at Sabora Tented Camp, where the meat is coated in a marinade of lemon juice, garlic, and spices like turmeric, coriander, and paprika, and then grilled over charcoal and served with ugali. Sabora Tented Camp also serves a tasty banana stew, which is made with boiled bananas and cooked, bite-size chunks of meat that is worth a try.