Cuisine of Madagascar

Cuisine of Madagascar

Cuisine of Madagascar traditionally consists of a base of rice ("vary") with some form of accompaniment ("laoka") [1] , although in the southwest rice may be supplemented or replaced by maize that has been dried, ground and reconstituted. Cuisines of France, China, India, and to a lesser extent East African and Arabian cultures have all made their influence felt in Madagascar.

Rice ("Vary")

A variety of rice strains, both locally grown and imported, are available for purchase in the markets. The grain may be prepared with varying amounts of water to produce a soupy rice ("vary sosoa") or a dry rice. It is not uncommon for those who can afford it to offer more than one type or preparation of rice at a meal. A drink called "ranon'ampango" is made by adding water to the toasted rice left sticking to the interior of its cooking pot, and is served at every meal as a sanitary and tasty alternative to water. "Vary amin'anana" is a popular traditional stew made with rice, meat and chopped greens.For breakfast, rice may be sprinkled with sugar (and optionally, a sliced fruit such as banana), or eaten with a laoka of fried egg or sausage. Among the well-to-do, rice may be replaced at breakfast by French bread spread with butter (and occasionally sugar or sweetened condensed milk).

Accompaniment ("Laoka")

The accompaniment served with rice varies according to what is locally available and in season of winter. Among the most common laoka are "voanjobory" (Bambara peas flavored with pork), "kitoza" (seasoned dried strips of zebu- a local strain of cattle), "trondro gasy" (white fish, often with zucchini and tomato), "ravitoto" (shredded cassava leaves with peanuts or pork), beef ("hena'omby") or chicken ("akoho") sauteed with ginger, "romazava" (beef and mixed greens sauteed with ginger, tomato and onion), pumpkin-peanut puree, "tsaramaso" (beans in a tomato sauce), and various types of seafood, which are more readily available along the coasts or in large urban centers. Garlic, onions, ginger, tomatoes, mild curry, and salt are the most common ingredients used to flavor most dishes, although in coastal areas coconut milk, vanilla and spices such as cloves may also be used. Malagasy cuisine is particularly unusual in its use of vanilla for the flavoring of savory dishes, rather than sweet ones.

Extremely spicy foods are less widely popular in Madagascar than in some parts of mainland Africa, although hot sauces, as well as Indian-style condiments made of pickled mango, lemon, and other fruits (known as "achards"), are produced along the coast and have been increasingly imported into the Highlands where they have been growing in popularity over the last ten years. An "achard"-like salad of green beans, cabbage and carrots (called "lasary karaoty") is especially popular as a side dish in the Highlands.

Street Foods

A variety of sweets like cakes and fritters (collectively known as "mofo", or bread) are available from kiosks in towns and cities across Madagascar. The most common is "mofo gasy" (Malagasy bread),made from a batter of sweetened rice flour that is poured into greased circular molds and cooked over charcoals. Mofo gasy is a popular breakfast food and is often eaten with coffee (also sold at kiosks). Other sweet mofo include mofo boule (a deep-fried corn flour doughnut) and fruit fritters (pineapple and bananas being among the most common fruits used), to name but a few. Savory mofo include (but are not limited to) "mokary" (similar to mofo gasy with the addition of wheat flour, and optional sweetening), and "mofo sakay" (spicy bread), a batter mixed with chopped greens, tomatoes, and peppers. Mofo may be purchased individually or in sets, and are often wrapped in newspaper for portability.

"Koban-dravina" is a Malagasy speciality made by grinding together peanuts and brown sugar, then enveloping the mixture in a sweetened rice flour paste to produce a bundle approximately a foot long and five inches (127 mm) thick. The bundle is wrapped in banana leaves and boiled for several days until the sugar caramelizes and the rice flour has solidified and been permeated with sweetened peanut oil. The resulting cake [2] is served in thin slices, again typically on sheets of newspaper for portability. As a result of French colonization, "pain francais" (french baguette) is still one of the most commonly sold and enjoyed breads in Madagascar.

"Koba akondro" is a sweet that is commonly sold at rest stops or gas stations and is made by wrapping a batter of ground peanuts, mashed bananas, honey and corn flour in banana leaves and steaming or boiling the small cakes until the batter has set. Peanut brittle, dried bananas, balls of tamarind paste rolled in colored sugar, caca pigeon ("pigeon droppings," a snack of deep-fried salted flour dough) and potato chips are all commonly sold on the street, as is home-made yogurt. In rural areas, steamed manioc or sweet potatoes are eaten, often with sweetened condensed milk.


While "ranonapango" is the most common and traditional beverage in Madagascar, a variety of other drinks are available for purchase. Tea and coffee are locally produced and widely consumed, as is Star Breweries' Three Horses Beer ("THB"). Wine is produced in the southern Highlands region, and Dzama rum is cheap and plentiful. Fruit juices are popular, and a hot beverage made from powdered sweetened soy is often consumed at breakfast. Fresh milk, however, is a rarity, and the locally produced yogurts or sweetened condensed milk mixed with hot water are the most common dairy sources of calcium.


Traditionally, fresh fruit may be eaten after a meal as a dessert. Fresh sugarcane is also occasionally enjoyed as a treat. A great variety of temperate and tropical fruits are grown locally and are often enjoyed sprinkled with sugar. Temperate fruits found in Madagascar include but are not limited to apples, lemons, limes, pumpkins, watermelon, oranges (whose peel often remains green even when ripe), cherries and strawberries. Among the many tropical fruits commonly eaten in Madagascar are coconut, tamarind, mango, pineapple, avocado and guavas, as well as longans, lychees, "pok-pok" ("voanantsindrana"), persimmon, and the fruit of the baobab tree, which is only available during a brief period near the end of the rainy season (typically March).
Madagascar is known for its high-quality cocoa, and Antananarivo-based Chocolaterie Robert produces excellent fresh chocolate bars, truffles and a variety of other treats using local cocoa. Dark, light and (to a lesser extent) white chocolate bars are available in neighborhood shops across the country, while other chocolate delicacies are primarily made available at the main chocolaterie itself in the capital city, in upper-scale hotels, or in the classier gift shops in major cities and airports.
Desserts originating in the neighboring countries of Comoros or Mauritius have made their way to the coasts. French pastries and cakes are also very popular across the island and may be purchased at the many "patisseries" found in towns and cities throughout Madagascar.


That is worth noting that several foreign dishes have been adopted in Madagascar and are widely prepared at home and in restaurants. Chief among these is "riz cantonais" (Chinese style fried rice); "soupe Chinoise" (Chinese style soup with noodles); Vietnamese Spanish Chicken (mi-xao) and egg rolls ("nem"), and Indian samosas, are also extremely popular.


To learn more:
[] Malagasy Cookbook, by the University of Pennsylvania Department of African Studies
[] Koban-dravina recipe and photos (in French)
[] Malagasy recipes (in French)
[] Extensive list of Malagasy recipes (in French)



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