Tanzania is “a great country, a beautiful country,” said Frances Amison, who is a trustee with Toledo Sister Cities International’s Tanga committee.
Toledo’s initial relationship with Tanga dates back to 1996, when Virginia Haywood-Smith led a group that nurtured connections with Africa. But it wasn’t until 2001 that the cities’ sitting mayors, Salim Kassim Kisauji and Carty Finkbeiner, formalized the agreement, and an official Sister City designation was established.
Ms. Amison has thoroughly enjoyed working with the TSCI and with the people of Tanzania on a variety of projects, she said, including the shipment of a used fire truck to Tanga (former mayor and Toledo Fire and Rescue Department chief Mike Bell helped to arrange the donation), supporting health clinics and an AIDS orphanage with supplies and funds, and assisting the Toledo Secondary School in our sister city to get Internet service.
But it was when she first traveled to Tanga that she “really got hooked,” she said. “I met the people. I saw the country. And I just fell in love.”
Tanzanian food, which she happily took the opportunity to sample, tends to be “very spicy,” said Ms. Amison. “I loved it.”
Corn is very popular, whether offered ground as ugali — a very stiff porridge that some consider to be Tanzania’s national dish — or ears that are roasted until charred and served as a snack.
Coconuts are immensely popular in Tanga’s cuisine. The fruits grow readily in the tropical climate, and they lend their sweetness to many dishes. More than 17 varieties of bananas and plantains grow in the country and are featured in countless ways both savory and sweet.
Wali, or plain rice, is often eaten as a base starch with a meal, though the grain can be spiced to make a pilau. Clove is an important flavoring in Tanzanian cuisine, as are cardamom and cinnamon.
Grilling is a common cooking technique, and mishkaki — marinated, skewered meats — are often prepared. Another variation of this is nyama choma, or slow-roasted kebabs. Popular vegetables include okra, greens, and beans.
Like Toledo, Tanga is situated on the water. Just south of the Horn of Africa, it is on the continent’s eastern coast. As a result, trade brought a variety of foods (such as tea from the British) to the cuisine. And “they eat a lot of fish,” Ms. Amison said, as she recalled being able “to put our feet into the Indian Ocean.”
Another aspect of visiting Tanga that was particularly enjoyable was going on safari. Always thinking of how to connect our two sister cities, Ms. Amison believes that “Jeep is perfect to be a safari car.” She didn’t see any American cars in her travels and said “we need to tap into that business,” showing off our city’s pride and joy in Tanzania.
Norma King has been involved with the Tanga committee since it started in 2001 and serves as its secretary.
She has also traveled to Tanga multiple times and has always enjoyed the food. “They cook with a lot of sauces,” she said, and noted that fish and meats are prevalent in many dishes. She likes spicy food, so she found “it wasn’t overpowering.”
During one of her trips, she and others from the Tanga committee were invited to a host partner’s home, where they were served samosas.
“Those are delicious,” she said of the savory meat pies, which have become very popular in Tanzania, given that there has been a large influx of Indian immigrants whose foods have become assimilated into the cuisine.
“We had tea and sat out on their patio,” Mrs. King said. The people of Tanga “always welcome us so heartily.”
Chicken curry prepared by Blade food editor Mary Bilyeu at her home in Toledo on Wednesday, June 27, 2018. The dish is of the Sister City Tanga, Tanzania.
Mojabeng Kamala, who does public relations work for the Toledo Sister Cities International Tanga Committee, comes from South Africa. Her husband, Wellington, is from Tanzania. She says that using 1 teaspoon of curry powder in this recipe should be “harmless” for timid taste buds. She prefers to use more: “I love gut burning hot food.”
■ 2 tablespoons cooking oil
■ 1 finely chopped onion
■ 1 diced green pepper, optional
■ 1 tablespoon ginger paste (see note)
■ 1 tablespoon garlic paste (see note)
■ 1 teaspoon curry powder, or to taste
■ 1 pound boneless chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
■ Salt, to taste
■ 1 tablespoon paprika
■ 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
■ 3 diced tomatoes
■ 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
■ Prepared rice, for serving
Heat the oil in a skillet or deep pan. Add onion, pepper, ginger and garlic pastes, and curry powder; cook over medium-low heat until onions are almost brown.
Add the meat along with the salt, paprika, and cayenne, stirring until all ingredients are mixed evenly. Frequently stir as you cook until the meat is brown.
Add the tomatoes and immediately lower the heat and put the lid on. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the meat is thoroughly cooked. Garnish with cilantro and serve over rice.
Note: Tubes of prepared garlic and ginger pastes are available in the produce section of large grocery stores.
Yield: 4 servings
Source: Adapted from Mojabeng Kamala
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