Tanzania is one of the East African countries, facing the Indian Ocean, sharing the eastern and northern borders with Kenya and Uganda, the western border with Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and southern border with Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique.
What is mandazi?
Mandazi is the term used to define a fried dough in the Kiswahili language. Andazi is the word used in the singular form while the word mandazi is plural to define these African donuts.
Kiswahili, a vernacular language, is a Bantu language originally from Tanzania that has mixed with other African languages and Arabic. Today, it plays an important role as a lingua franca in much of sub-Saharan Africa.
This precious piece of Tanzanian and Kenyan culture comes from the great African lakes on the Swahili coast.
What is the origin of mandazi?
It all began more than 4 centuries ago, in the small villages of East Africa where there was no bread available to residents for breakfast. Thus, the ladies of these small villages had to make sure to find a solution and collectively elaborated their own recipes of these fried buns based on easy-to-obtain ingredients, such as cardamom, flour, vanilla, and coconut.
Many women used to prepare piles of mandazi and carried them on a tray to the nearby souk to sell them for breakfast. Some even set up a stand in front of their house to sell them hot.
As times changed and as it became easier for the villagers to get a variety of breads from the local bakeries in each city, the love and importance of these fried buns remained intact and the local bakeries now offer mandazi in various forms.
The Mandazi traveled to the Sultanate of Oman, a country in the Middle East, south of the Arabian Peninsula.
Remember that from 1698 the Sultanate of Oman ruled Zanzibar. At the time, many Omani men working in trade had settled in East Africa, got married, started a family and adopted many aspects of the culture, including a love for local food. Even traders who simply crossed the port cities of Zanzibar returned to Oman with the taste of these exotic foods.
While the most popular form of mandazi is the triangular form, the most curious form of one of the varieties of mandazi, and also the least common is called saga manoti. Its origins are controversial. Some say the mandazi recipe comes from Tanzania, while others insist it comes from Burundi. The curiosity of this sweet bun begins with its name, saga manoti, which means “to crush or to crush money”.
It is said that this bun would have received its nickname by being so sweet and so good that those who consumed it ended up eating more and more, spending all their money to satisfy their greed.
These saga manoti are quite amazing and even magic: two doughs are prepared, one with sugar, one without. The two doughs are then formed into two balls, which are then rolled into thin cylindrical shapes. A sweet and an unsweetened roll are then rolled up like a snail before being laid flat and cut into triangles, into six parts to be fried. The resulting buns have a wonderful marbled two-tone effect and are soaked in a sugar syrup that has been heated to crystallize just like sugar on the surface of the dough.
An African proverb says: “If you want to know the secrets of a man, sit down and eat with him”.
From this old popular proverb, you can understand how important it is to stop and think about the way of life and understand the meal in Africa. And all over Africa!
African meals are rituals to discover. These are moments of sharing and celebration, precious opportunities to socialize, to build new relationships, to strengthen old friendships.
African cuisines are extremely rich and imaginative. Whether in the Maghreb, Senegal, Eritrea, Ethiopia or Madagascar, the many African cuisines hide true treasures of gastronomy. For example, and to only name a few: couscous, pastilla or a good poulet DG, yassa or mafe, injera, doro wat, and kedjenou.
Let’s go back to East Africa where the cuisine of the coastal regions is marked by North African and Middle East cultures.
This influence is most pronounced in Kenya, Tanzania, and Madagascar, where many traditional dishes have been enriched with sauces and flavors imported from India, China, Arabia, Yemen and Lebanon. The ingredients that you will often find in the dishes include coconut, curry and bananas, often stewed with the meat or served boiled with yam. Among the spices, there is an abundant use of vanilla, but also clove, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Tanzanian cuisine is very simple, with a wide use of spices, including cardamom and cumin. You will find dishes such as ndizi with green bananas, or ugali, a dish that is reminiscent of polenta and prepared with white corn flour or cassava.
Rice is widely used, thanks to the countless rice fields of the region, as well as coconut milk and beef. Along the coast or on the islands, the influence of Arab culture is greater, where a more varied but refined cuisine can be found.
Zanzibar, the most famous touristic region of the United Republic of Tanzania, naturally has a more elaborate cuisine.
Sambusa is probably the most popular snack in the region and comes from the Indian samosa: they are fried triangles stuffed with spiced ground meat whose traditional form looks a little like mandazi.
How to make mandazi
Let’s go back to the mandazi that are prepared by briefly frying the dough in the oil. Ingredients traditionally used to prepare mandazi include flour, egg, sugar, spices, and not to mention the delicious coconut milk.
Other ingredients, such as peanuts and ground almonds can also be used to give them a different flavor.
Mandazi can be eaten as an accompaniment to many dishes. They are usually prepared in the early morning for breakfast and then reheated in the evening for dinner.
Regarding the yeast used for mandazi: in Tanzania, baker’s yeast is used as well as baking powder with the same resting time, while in Kenya baker’s yeast is the most used. The baker’s yeast gives the mandazi a slightly softer texture than the baking powder. I personally used baker’s yeast.
The rules of a good frying are very important to observe for the preparation of these Tanzanian and Kenyan fried breads, just as I explained to you in the recipe for hojaldres from Panama.
Do not hesitate one second and make this delicious mandazi recipe!
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup coconut milk
- 1 egg , lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup warm water (about)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter , softened
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom, ginger and cinnamon blend
- ½ teaspoon chili powder (optional)
- Vegetable oil (for frying)
- Sugar (or icing sugar), to cover
- An hour before starting, prepare all the ingredients at room temperature.
Mix the yeast with 4 tablespoons of warm water (about 90 F / 33 C). Wait for 5 minutes.
- Combine beaten egg, coconut milk, butter and sugar and beat well.
- Mix the flour, cayenne pepper and spices.
- In the bowl of a mixer or in a large mixer, place the flour mixture and spices.
- Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast.
- Gradually incorporate the coconut milk, butter, egg and sugar.
- Finally, add warm water gradually until reaching a smooth and elastic dough.
- Once the ingredients are well mixed and the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, knead for about 5 minutes at medium speed.
- If kneading by hand, since the ingredients are well mixed and the dough has taken shape, transfer it to a floured flat surface and knead for 10 minutes.
- Put the dough in a large container, cover and let rest and rise for 45 minutes in a place away from drafts.
Divide the dough into equal balls and, using the rolling pin, flatten the balls in a ½ inch (1,25 cm) thick round shape.
- Using a sharp knife or cookie cutter, divide dough into triangles or form traditional donuts (small circles with a hole in the center).
- Place the donuts on a floured surface.
- Cover and let stand for 10 minutes.
- Heat oil over medium-high heat and fry the mandazis until golden brown.
- Remove and place on paper towels or a metal colander to remove excess oil.
- Sprinkle with sugar or icing sugar or eat as is.
- Serve immediately after frying.