Friday, August 31, 2007

Things We Ate on the Street: Tanzania

So far, Tanzania is the hands-down King of Things We Ate on the Street. There was the corn….boiled and barbecued, we tried it all! The sugar cane---they one-upped our earlier Egyptian delight by adding ginger and honey to the juice in Zanzibar. Divine! But it was also quite good just straight from the cane---and we soon had sticky hands and faces just like all the little kids.

The Mecca of street food was Zanzibar, where the night bazaar in Stone Town’s Forodani Gardens offered everything from land (Zanzibar pizzas with egg, cheese, and tomato or chocolate and banana) and sea (octopus, calamari, snapper, kingfish, snapper). Every conceivable type of meat was grilled to order, and fresh sliced pineapple was on offer as you walked home.

But what we really should have called this one is ‘Things you can eat from the bus window,’ because that’s where we ended up doing a lot of our grocery shopping. The minute our bus (and there were many long-distance bus trips) slowed down even slightly, the vendors would spill out onto the pavement offering loads of treats balanced on their heads or extended out on sticks. Fancy an egg? Some cashews? A new pair of shoes? A stool? A new cell phone? Hair pick? Wallet? Passport cover? Salad tongs? The selection was tremendous. Although we tended to stick to the bananas, nuts, and biscuits.

Another highlight of Tanzanian street food was the local homebrew. On our trek through the Usambara mountains, we finally figured out why we only see women and children on the street. It’s because all the men were holed up in the local tavern swilling boha, the sugar cane fermented local beer, and it’s more potent and stronger liquor cousin. We happily swilled the former, but steered clear of the latter, as we’d read stories of batches going awry, resulting in multiple deaths.

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