World Dinner Club

World Dinner Club
World Dinner Club

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Eating through Tanzania: Swahili Food from Savannah to the Shore

“You’re going where for your honeymoon? “
“Shouldn’t you be considering something more relaxing? “

Many comments and opinions surfaced around our plans to go on our honeymoon in Tanzania in September, but while a few were signs of confusion, most were whole hearted expressions of support.  After a whirlwind of activity in which I survived the circus of an Indian wedding and the months of preparation in advance, we hurriedly packed our new back packs and headed to Tanzania.  Pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food on KLM, but especially thankful for the ample supply of the wine, we arrived at night at Kilimanjaro International.  After a stay in a rustic lodge with variable running water on a coffee plantain, we got up to a cold an foggy sunrise.
The day began with a very English breakfast of bland baked beans, English pancakes that are neither crepes nor flapjacks, and some fresh pineapple. The food was rather disappointing despite our hunger. Fortunately it was possible to order some eggs.  Our guide, Patrick, picked us up and took us to Ngorogoro Crater Park.  

Awed by the concentration of game, we ate one of many packed lunches of hardboiled eggs, noodles, sugar cookies and bananas from inside the Land Cruiser.  I felt like I was still on an airliner and becoming for the first good meal.  By evening, we were at Olduvai Camp near the famous Olduvai Gorge where the Leakey’s discovered our oldest ancestors, the Australopithecus.  We had a quick briefing on the camp from one of the staff members.  Reviewing our dietary requirements, S explained that she does not eat beef.  I confirmed that I was fine with anything.  Asked if I was ok with elephant barbeque that evening, I semi-enthusiastically responded “ok sure,” causing much chuckling from the facetious manager. After watching the sunrise over the cliffs, I had my first Kilimanjaro beer and a dinner of roast chicken that was peppery and lean and sans elephant.

The next morning we went on a walk with the Masai who lived near the camp.  We noticed many guinea fowl that scurried around the bushes and rocks that dotted the landscape.  When I asked the Masai if they liked to eat it, they explained that they never did because they didn’t think it tasted very good preferring beef and mutton.  I was floored by this (more so than by the suggestion of having elephant for dinner).  Here the Masai had an abundance of perfectly delectable guinea fowl there for the taking and they were totally disinterested.  Trying to decipher what at all they did like, I learned that they like cow’s blood. Having seen this meal procured by Andrew Zimmern on the Travel Channel, by inserting a sharpened wooden pipe into the neck of a very alive and reasonable distressed cow a calabash of blood is extracted.  
Confirming that this exact practice was in fact the case, I was also assured that you could have cow’s blood for breakfast and not have to eat the rest of the day. Truly this was the real breakfast of champions or a good energy drink. Does Gatorade know about this?

Our Guide drove us into the Serengeti.  The park is six times the size of Masai Mara in Kenya and about the size of the State of Connecticut.  In all, the vastness of the landscape of the Serengeti is incomparable. After seeing many more elephants , antelope and even the elusive leopard, we arrived in the evening at Dunia Camp. 
This luxury tented camp served us dinner at a long table where we got to enjoy an almost obligatory gin and tonic by the outdoor fire followed by a extraordinary dinner of chapatis, simple salads, chicken and peanut stew, marinated steak, root vegetables, potatoes and rice washed down with ample South African wine.  Desserts were fresh fruits with overly sweet crème anglais.

Our breakfasts got better.  My fried eggs were accompanied by thick round rashers of bacon, mushrooms or beans sautéed in onions, perfectly browned toast, fresh fruit juice and a choice of different jam or honey, which one morning attracted so many bees I had to move it to the next table.  Lunches became feasts of chicken baked in crisp pastry with potato salad and green salads with cold Kilimanjaro beer.

It was painful to leave for the airstrip to return to Arusha and knowing we had a few days of very different camping ahead of us on Kilimanjaro.


  1. Hey Vijay, I did a similar trip back in 2005,

    It seems you got much more luxurious dining than us. We went with Zara, which was otherwise great, but the food consisted of butter and carrot sandwiches, hardboiled eggs, and some pancakes. Still, trip to remember! On the way home we also stopped in Nairobi in the "Carnivore". There you should try this drink they call dawa, it's lemon juicy mixed with honey and vodka. Extremely delicious!

  2. I ate a similar restaurant in Windhoek, Namibia. Ate some wonderful game, including zebra!