Tanzanian Cuisine — Fish Curry and Ugali

When we were researching Tanzanian cuisine, the main course recipe that came up most often is fish curry, so we thought we should give it a try.  Each recipe was different so we pieced together our own, owing greatly to the works of Food Lunatic and The African Cookbook from the University of Pennsylvania’s African Studies department.

Most everything in Swahili-speaking East Africa is eaten alongside ugali (recipe below), a thick, dough-like porridge made of finely ground corn flour.  We made our ugali into dumplings to make the meal a little less messy for Westerners like us to eat.

Tanzanian fish curry

SERVES 4

  • 1 lb white fish filet (we used Alaskan cod), cut into 1 to 2 inch pieces
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into quarters lengthwise and sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbs curry powder
  • 14 oz can stewed tomatoes with liquid
  • 2 Tbs natural or fresh-ground peanut butter
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbs fish sauce

First we heated the oil over medium heat in a large pan and added the onions, garlic, and curry powder:

onionsandcurrypowder

After five minutes or so, once the onions had softened, the tomatoes and their liquid, peanut butter, green peppers, jalapenos, ginger, coconut milk, water, and fish sauce were added and stirred until the peanut butter was incorporated into the resulting sauce:

currysauce

The sauce was left to simmer and thicken slightly for ten minutes.  Meanwhile, the cod pieces were salted and peppered and left to marinate in a bowl with the lemon juice.

Once the curry sauce had thickened a little, the fish was added and gently stirred in to the sauce:

fishadded

The burner was turned down to medium-low and the curry was left to simmer slowly until the fish was just done, about eight to ten minutes:

finishedcurry

With the curry finished:

platedfishcurry

…we were ready for the ugali.

Ugali

  • 1/3 cup masa flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup water

We brought the water to a boil in a small saucepan, turned the burner down to medium, then began to add the masa a little at a time:

ugalistart

The flour additions were fully incorporated into the boiling water before adding any more masa:

ugali2

ugali3

The ugali was vigorously stirred throughout the cooking process until it pulled away from the sides of the pan and had a consistency like wet bread dough:

ugalifinished

The ugali was broken up into about one inch dumplings and added to the curry:

currywithugali

In the fish curry we could taste distinctly the Indian and southeast Asian influences on Tanzanian cuisine.  At the same time, the curry felt distinctly Tanzanian with the peanut flavor and ugali dumplings.

Also from our Tanzanian meal: pilau and kachumbari.

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