The 2016 Food Post: The Tanzania Experience PART I: Dar es Salaam

You may have already read the I Love Food posts, but what is life if not eating, talking while eating (chew with your mouth closed, though, please 🙂 ), and talking about food? There is nothing quite like the discovery of a new food or spice, or like the rediscovery of the same thing. Some times the discovery is simply delicious; triggering a spiritual experience we wouldn’t have fathomed we could have. At time it’s just…nice, but we wouldn’t want seconds or even a second bite. Then, there are times when the food is so nasty to us that we go through a bunch of thoughts. Like, “how does my brother eat this?” “Oh my this is so gross. What IS in here?”, or “okay okay okay okay…don’t let your face show what your taste buds are saying. Don’t do it. Be chill. Smile. A real smile, not that one. No judgments, just appreciate the experience!” At the end of the day it’s all about that, isn’t it? Appreciating the experience. Over the years I’ve been in quite a few food conversations and situations. I remember being in a village where they grew rice. All we had for all meals was rice and beans. All meals were seasoned the same way. None of us complained about it or liked the food any less. It was delicious and a part of our food experience. However, when I think about the seasoning options we have, or come across, or the foods we have, and come across, I often think about the days in that village, and am grateful to be able to try something different. Having said all that, on this trip to Tanzania I still didn’t try senene!

Enough philosophizing about food. Let’s talk about some of the foods I came across while in Tanzania. I like lists, so I’ll just get right to it, with a handy dandy list:



The Waterfront

The Waterfront is a really nice location. It sits right on the water and adjacent to it is a manned playground at which the kids can play as you all wait for your food. I found it to be a bit on the pricey side, especially after finding Samaki Samaki. However, the atmosphere is really awesome and the food is good, plus there is a high chance of running into old friends, and that was AWESOME!! Don’t get the pilau here. Get one of your friends’ mom to make it for you!


The view from the pier next to The Waterfront


Samaki Samaki

IMG_0620This was a gem of a place. Samaki Samaki has two locations: one downtown and one on the Msasani Peninsula (in Masaki). I went to the one on the peninsula and it was great. As you can see, our son had a high chair fit for a baby king! It’s as if they knew he was coming! Hehehe.  The prices were really reasonable and the food delicious; and they were generous with their portions. We tried the Haile Selassie seafood soup (picture below), the Octopus soup, the fishkaki (photo below) and fries. Their mango juice is a mix of mango, passion fruit & another fruit, and nothing else: really refreshing and scrumptious! Our most favorite dish was the fishkaki, which was grilled octopus pieces on a skewer. The fries were decent. We were told the best fries (aka chips) in Dar, are made at American Chips; a place we didn’t get to try.
IMG_0629    IMG_0628



Okay. So…If you’re in Dar, you have to go by Sno-Cream’s location downtown. It’s just something you have to do. The ice-cream gets a 7.5 out of a 10, but it isn’t all about the ice-cream; it’s about the whole experience. The same lady who was there 20 years ago is still there, with a smile on her face and the patience of a goddess.



My Mama’s House

Okay, so this is not the name of a restaurant you can visit. It’s my mom’s house. Here you can see a display of a few things that are available to eat at most homes, along with Tanzanian coffee and tea. A thermos is a must have! There is typically hot water in it, sometimes infused with ginger or cinnamon. Here I had a kitumbua (sweet rice cake), a piece of chapati, a piece of grilled chicken, and fried sweet plantains.



IMG_1742This large pan is how vitumbua are made. The pans aren’t always this large, usually just about a quarter of this size. This photo was actually taken in Arusha, but there was a lady who lived near my mom’s house who cooked these every morning and made the air smell oh so good!






Family is gathered here to eat. I mean to celebrate. Hehehe… Also at my mom’s house, aka Bibi Sally’s House.



Cape Town Fish Market

This place is also on the waterfront and in fact not too far from Slipway. You can see Slipway over there in the horizon. Cape Town Fish Market has great sushi and a few yummy South African dishes. As you can see I had a little bit of a sweet tooth on this day. Because they want to be just like me, my nieces and daughter ordered dessert, too. What can I say?!


Container Bar

This is a street-corner joint…it started out with one container, now they are a big place! The cooks here know their stuff! They make roast pork, nundu (pork fat chunks on a skewer), grilled chicken (nyama choma), and they are most famous for their mishkaki (Tanzanian style beef kebobs). This fame ain’t for nothing! The mishkaki are delicious and really well priced!!! You can get the same mishkaki amount, not as tasty, for more money, at many ‘better locales’




You must try a Fanta Orange and a Stoney Tangawizi when you go to Tanzania. Stoney is our Coca-Cola brand ginger beer, and it’s the most balanced one I have had anywhere. If you can’t have sugar, then you don’t ‘must’ try it. LOL. All our sodas are made with sugar.IMG_0886  IMG_0896



IMG_0821Senene is considered a delicacy and is also a really nutritious snack. Senene is a particular type of grasshopper that used to be really hard to find, and was typically only in the northwestern region of the country (if I am wrong, someone correct me). I remember being in Bukoba during a rainy season, and the senene swarming the tall street lamps. I don’t have any such recollection of this happening in Arusha (which is in northeastern Tanzania, nor in Iringa, which is in Southern Tanzania. Thus I concluded my theory without further research (don’t be like me: do your research 🙂 )





IMG_1422Fried cassava chips

These ones in the photo are peppered with cayenne pepper. They are oh so tasty! You can easily find these being sold by vendors walking amongst the cars during traffic times. They have regular potatoes as well, but the cassava ones are my favorite (and are healthier for you, too). Here in the States you can get yucca, which is very cheap, fairly easy to find, and has a very close taste to the cassava in Tanzania.

IMG_1726Passion fruit

Contrary to some people’s belief, passion fruit is actually its own fruit, and not a collection of tropical fruits. Someone told me once, that they always thought it was the latter.

If you ever get the chance, you should try it. It’s sweet and tart. You eat everything that’s inside its pericarp…seeds and all. It’s exhilarating!

Last but not least…..

Iftar at my cousin’s house

Iftar or Futari (in Kiswahili) is the time at sunset when you break fast during the holy month of Ramadhan. There are foods that are made during this month that aren’t typically made during the rest of the year (like sweet pinto beans). We were lucky because my cousin owns a restaurant for which she cooks, and she made us all this delicious food! I must say, though, that most of my family can cook, so eating good food is never a problem. Here we have fried red snapper soaked in a coconut sauce, a chicken soup, a salad, mandazi (sweet dough…fried…kind of like donuts), chapati, and green bananas from Bukoba. Oh, and that thermos over there? That has some REALLY tasty milk spiced chai.

Oh, I almost forgot…. MCHICHA

Mchicha, as you see it grown here by the side of the road in Dar es Salaam (down the street from the Namanga Shoppes), is the most common green-leaf vegetable in Tanzania. It’s grown easily, it’s cheap, and it’s delicious. Also known as Tanzanian spinach, this is amaranth !!! We don’t get amaranth leaves in American supermarkets, and although I always thought the spinach here tasted a bit different, I just thought it was because of the soil and possibly chemicals. I did not know that it was amaranth I was eating all those years!

Hungry yet? Karibuni tule! (you’re all welcome so we can eat together!)

Next stop is Arusha.

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