Culinary Tourism in Tanzania

by Carlos C. Olaechea

Student Carlos C. Olaechea shares some gastronomic images of his spring break trip to Tanzania.

This spring break, I went on a tour of northern Tanzania along with fellow gastronomy student Keith Duhamel and Interim Faculty Coordinator Mary Beaudry as part of Dr. Samuel Mendlinger’s course on economic development via tourism in the developing world.  In addition to viewing the wildlife that makes this region of Africa a unique tourist destination, we also participated in lectures offered by local experts on tourism, conservation, and community development.

As a gastronomy student, I naturally focused my attention on the local food culture as we drove past coffee plantations, paddies, fields of maize, and herds of zebu cattle.  We were able to learn about agricultural practices and traditional foods and beverages, as well as sample the cuisines of the various native and immigrant groups that call Tanzania home.

The course, offered by Metropolitan College’s Administrative Sciences department and open to gastronomy students interested in tourism development, is offered each spring semester.  It is advisable to take one other tourism course in the department, such as Cultural Tourism (ML 692), prior to taking this course.  For more information about the course, as well as other tourism courses, please visit the Administrative Sciences website.

Local root vegetables are offered alongside traditional English breakfast items such as beans, grilled tomatoes, and sausages.
a meat stew and rice at a roadside cafe. The food is traditionally cooked on charcoal braziers, filling the space with a smokey aroma
preparing leafy greens at a roadside cafe
Hotels and lodges offer guests boxed lunches to take with them on safari. They typically feature a banana and packaged mango nectar produced in the capital, Dar Es Salaam.
Listening to a talk about banana cultivation on a cultural tour of Mto W Ambu, a town renowned for its bananas, plantains, and rice.
a patch of leafy greens in Mto W Ambu
A heard of zebu cattle – a breed known for its hardiness and ubiquitous in Tanzania – in Mto W Ambu. Cattle herding is one of the primary livelihoods of the Maasai people of the region
A dinner buffet at Rhino Lodge in Ngorongoro Conservation area feature continental and local fare, including ugali – a cornmeal porridge – and peas in a tomato and coconut milk sauce.
The national beer. Safari beer is also another type of lager available in Tanzania, as well as Tusker, a Kenyan variety. Tanzania also produces its own brand of gin called Konyagi, which is sweeter and has less juniper than the European and American varieties.
Women selling plantains on the side of the road.
skewers of beef, a traditional Maasai dish called Nyama Choma, is a popular street food throughout this region of Tanzania. Each skewer costs about 1,000 Tanzanian shillings, the equivalent of 50 cents.
Banana and sprouted red millet beer, the specialty of the Chaka people. Originally from the area surrounding Mount Kilimanjaro, many tribe members moved to the town of Mto W Ambu. The beverage provides a great deal of vitamins and probiotics, and after Protestant missionaries discouraged its consumption, the health of local populations declined significantly.
Enjoying the famous red bananas of Mto W Ambu.
sweet, non alcoholic malt beverages and plantain chips are a popular snack throughout the region, and both are available at the rest stops within Serengeti National Park.
A guava vendor in the town of Arusha, where we began our expedition.
The central market of Arusha
An artful display of fresh okra at the central market in Arusha.
A variety of legumes, a local staple, at the central market in Arusha.
Two important seasonings: dried anchovies (middle) and scotch bonnet chiles or “pili pili” (right). On the bottom left are chunks of clay that women consume, especially when they are pregnant.
Freshly ground Tanzanian coffee at the Arusha central market.
brightly colored and flavored baobab seeds are a popular children’s snack, who suck the acidic pulp and spit out the brown seeds. Apparently, it is inappropriate for adults to indulge in them…but that didn’t stop me.
The salad and chutney bar at Khan’s BBQ. By day, Mr. Khan, a Pakistani expat, runs a mechanic shop, and by night, grills brimming with kebabs line Mosque Street behind the central market in Arusha. Although the salads and chutneys have South Asian influences, they are uniquely Tanzanian.
Mutton and beef cooking on a charcoal grill at Khan’s BBQ
Red tinged tandoor chicken at Khan’s BBQ
Freshly made jilebis, a crispy snack soaked in sugar syrup, are the perfect sweet end to a meal at Khan’s BBQ
Local custard apple, passionfruit, and guava from the central market in Arusha supplemented the breakfast buffet on our last day in Tanzania.


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