Malagasy food is a reflection of the African, Arab and Indonesian people that have settled in the country. You can also find influences from the French colonisers like vanilla, coffee, cloves and sugar cane. Typical Madagascan food consists of one main dish of meat, poultry or fish with a side dish of vegetables. This usually comes accompanied by a bowl of ro which is a mix of herbs, leaves and rice. The cuisine is known for being flavourful even though it is prepared quite minimalistic and without many spices. Most of the dishes are flavoured with sauces of onion, tomato, garlic and ginger for a bit of spicey flavour. So, let’s spice things up – here is our favourite food from Madagascar…
Romazava is considered to be the national dish of Madagascar so it comes first on our list. You must absolutely try it if you happen to be in Madagascar. It is a stew made with meat (beef or zebu meat) and leafy greens like paracress, anamamy and mustard greens. Paracress is also known as toothache plant and has a mouth-numbing effect similar to a local anesthetic. Outside of Madagascar it is often substituted by arugula and spinach because it is hard to find outside of Madagascar. This means you should really take your chance if you’re able to try it as it’s really special. The herbs and pieces of beef and pork are cooked in oil until browned and the dish typically comes with a portion of rice or a spicy condiment made with garlic, chili peppers and ginger.
People in Madagascar love their meat but vegetarians will also find some delicious meals like Lasary. It can be described as a type of Madagascan salad and originated from northern Madagascar. The delicious and colourful chutney is usually made from lemon, mango or papaya and sometimes tomatoes, peanuts or vegetable. The fruity dish is often served as a side dish or as a topping on a baguette sandwich or comes as an accompaniment to meat skewers and rice.
Mofo Gasy is one of the most popular street foods in Madagascar and is traditionally served for breakfast with a cup of coffee. It is a bread made from rice flour, water, some sugar (or honey) and yeast. The dough is then cooked over charcoal in greased molds. In some coastal regions it can also be made with coconut milk but the variations of the recipe differ in the regions of Madagascar.
Koba is a fantastic traditional Malagasy dessert which is sold in marketplaces and gas stations by vendors and is especially popular among kids. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try it though, as it definitely is one of the best (sweet) foods in Madagascar. It is a pastry made with a mix of rice flour, sugar and crushed peanuts and is wrapped in banana leaves which does not look very appetizing, but is absolutely delicious. The cakes were long shunned by the urban population but nowadays they are more popular than ever and they are even exported.
Kabaro is a dish that consists of Lima beans with curry or coconut and is a speciality in Morondava. Lima beans are great in a stew with an earthier, spicier touch than most bean dishes. Kabaro is a simple dish but very filling and flavourful due to the large amounts of spices. The contrast between the acidity of the lemon juice and vinegar and the texture with the rice and beans make it a very interesting and delicious dish.
If you enjoy meat, you will love Zebu. Zebu cattle are known for their excellent meat. It is a local breed of humped cow and can be found everywhere in the country. It is served as a filet, grilled or stewed for hours in one of the traditional Malagasy dishes like Romazava. Zebus are synonymous with status and wealth as the costs of a zebu are a huge amount of money for a Malagasy family. Zebus will usually be slaughtered for weddings, exhumation and reburial ceremonies, circumcisions and other important festivals or events. It is sometimes served in restaurants and is a must at Malagasy celebrations.
Ravitoto is pork served with shredded cassava leaves. This potato-like tuber has a starchy and slightly bitter taste if not prepared correctly. Even though this doesn’t sound very appealing, Ravitoto is a very popular food in Madagascar that you can find everywhere you go on the island. The traditional dish is made by boiling the pounded cassava leaves, oil and meat (often pork meat) over a charcoal fire and is usually served with rice.