Home Food These 5 Recipes Connect Me to My Memories of Tanzania

These 5 Recipes Connect Me to My Memories of Tanzania

by TopBusinessView

I still remember the first time I visited Tanzania, my parents’ home country in East Africa, back in 2007. I was only nine years old, but the intensity of the place stuck with me. You can’t forget water that blue, buildings that weathered, or food that good. Tanzania is home  to  a robust food scene; in Dar es Salaam, the former capital, and on the island of Zanzibar, where my mother and father are from, small family-owned restaurants with plastic chairs line the alleys and wood food stalls plant deep into the sand. 

They welcome visitors and residents alike to enjoy plates of spiced grilled meats and seafood, crispy samosas, kungu (Indian almond), fresh tropical fruits like mabungo, and shoki shoki (rambutan). The region’s specialties are reflective of the area’s far-reaching and long-standing geographical influences. The Indian Ocean trade routes dating all the way back to 800 AD, along with the migration of Indians into the region in the 19th century, connected the eastern coast of Africa with the Arabian Peninsula and parts of southern and eastern Asia. 

Through the sharing of ingredients, currency, religion, and language, a multifaceted food culture emerged—one that’s representative of all the best parts of fusion cooking. Spices like cumin, cardamom, and turmeric melded with locally grown crops like coconuts and rice, yielding aromatic dishes such as machi paka, grilled fish served with coconut curry, and mkate mimina, a rice cake made with coconut and cardamom.

These nostalgic dishes connect me to a land 7,500 miles away and inspire the recipes that follow. They provide a medium for sharing who I am and where I come from with friends, who bring their own unique perspectives to my table. When buying a transcontinental ticket isn’t an option, engaging in cross-cultural relationships openly and intimately over a good meal may just be the next best thing.

My Tanzanian table:

Three glasses of Sparkling Tangawizi on a green marbled surface to the top right is a silver metallic tray

Balanced and refreshing, this sparkling soda features plenty of fresh ginger for a sweet heat.

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Salmon Paka plated in a bowl on white table cloth with other serving utensils on the table

Quickly seared salmon takes a bath in silky, aromatic coconut curry in this inspired take on East African machi paka. 

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Potato Frittata with lots of cilantro in a castiron skillet with a slice removed onto a small plate

The star of this potato frittata is the golden strips of shallow-fried russets suspended in the creamy, peppery, quiche-like filling. 

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A serving of sliced MishkakiStyle Strip Steak topped with cucumber salad on a white plate

Kachumber, a classic side salad in Swahili cuisine, balances out rich steak whose marinade is inspired by East African grilled beef skewers called mishkaki. 

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A round Coconut and Cardamom Cake with a slice removed to a small plate all on a table covered with a white table cloth

Aromatic and flavorful, this tender butter cake features both coconut and cardamom for a floral, tropical take on classic yellow cake.

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