A Basic Introduction to Madagascar Food
If you are planning a trip to Madagascar or just curious about the island’s culture, you should familiarize yourself with Madagascar food. Madagascar food is about bringing people together and feeding them well, a reflection of the many cultures present on the island. The people of Madagascar (the Malagasy) have utilized their unique vegetation and livestock to create truly splendid dishes with flavors that will entice your palette.
A Brief Overview
The central staple of the Malagasy diet is rice and lots of it. Rice is generally the main course of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Meat also plays an important role, but it is usually used to compliment the rice. Fresh exotic fruits and vegetables are another focal point to this intriguing cuisine. Keep in mind however, that different regions will have different vegetation, and therefore different dishes.
Meats will vary depending on what area you go to. Zebu cattle provide beef for the entire island. Chicken and goats are also readily available, and duck can also be found from time to time. Pork is another story, however. Since parts of Madagascar house large populations with Indian and Arabic cultural backgrounds, you need to be aware that pork will not be available everywhere. In some areas, it’s best to not even ask for it.
Fruits and vegetables of many varieties are available year round in Madagascar and served at their absolute freshest. It is not uncommon to have several different veggies served to you in one meal.
The dishes served in Malagasy restaurants differ greatly from traditional Madagascar cooking served in private homes. Travelers, although still pleased with the quality, will often be able to see the Western influences in the hotel-served dishes. Some popular dishes available across Madagascar are listed below.
Lasopy is a perfect example of traditional Madagascar food. Lasopy is essentially a vegetable puree/soup that is seasoned with veal bones. It’s very low in calories and has an enormous amount of vitamins and minerals in it. It is so popular that several recipes are available online and can be found in regional cookbooks as well.
Lasary voatabia is a popular and delicious type of salad served in Madagascar. It features finely diced tomatoes and scallions and is served chilled and with salt and Tabasco added for flavor.
Kitoza is another favorite food of the Malagasy and considered to be a great delicacy. Kitoza consists of broiling dried strips of Zebu beef over a charcoal fire. The meat is removed once it becomes crisp and is traditionally served with cornmeal mush as a breakfast dish.
Desserts are also served in Madagascar and usually consist of fresh fruit that has been flavored with vanilla. A popular variation of this is salady voankazo, a fruit dish that is drizzled with hot vanilla syrup and lychees, then chilled and served with an additional spritz of vanilla.
When in Madagascar, it is highly recommended that you do not drink untreated water. Even the locals avoid this, instead opting to drink ranonapango. Ranonapango is a drink made from burned rice and boiling water and it is served with almost every meal and ceremony. Since rice is such a staple to the Malagasy people, it is easy to see why this drink is so popular, albeit unusual sounding.
There are several alcoholic beverages served in Madagascar. Litchel is an alcoholic fruit drink that is made from lychees. Gris is a grayish colored wine that can be found in the Ambalavao region. The staple beer of the country is Three Horses Beer; a popular lager that is of the highest quality.
Coffee is another popular beverage in Madagascar and because of the strong French cultural presence is imbibed more frequently than tea.