Saturday, July 27, 2013

Meals of Madagascar

We did not go to Madagascar for the food.  We love food, and we really loved Madagascar, but it certainly was a low point in terms of food for the trip.  You'll see a lot of repetition in our meals.
Rice is the main component of lunch or dinner; likewise, baguette for breakfast.  You'll see a lot of zebu, which is cattle with a fatty lump on their shoulders; Brahma are a type of zebu.  Also, pork and chicken, and anywhere coastal, lots of fish.  The zebu was similar to beef, though it was definitely from older, grass-fed animals.  Some was excellent.  The pork was not significantly different.  The chicken was also older, and we saw the chickens everywhere--these are not the ball-shaped, western chickens.  They look like birds, and the meat is tougher, but also much more flavorful.

We expected the food to be challenging, and we brought some small jars of peanut butter and granola bars as supplements if needed--we only ended up relying on them a couple of times.  Refrigeration is relatively uncommon in Madagascar (continuous electricity is also uncommon, so a fridge wouldn't actually be that useful anyway).  This changes how things work in a restaurant, of course.  Usually we would stop at a restaurant several hours before our meal there, place our order, and then go to see the wildlife and scenery in the area, and return to eat afterwards.  This allowed the restaurant to go buy fresh ingredients, and prepare it in time.  When timing did not allow us to pre-order, we would sit down, place our order, and then we would see someone from the restaurant walking into town with an empty market basket.  Later, we'd see them return with a full basket, and finally, our meal would arrive, possibly an hour after ordering it.  Trust us, you don't want your food to arrive quickly when the kitchen has no refrigerator--at least not if you ordered meat.  In general, the food was quite fresh.

We also noticed that we were eating their version of a special occasion meal every night.  It would be like visiting the US and getting Thanksgiving dinner, Easter dinner, Christmas dinner, etc. every day of your visit.  We saw this all over the world, but it seemed to stand out more here.  We did get one meal that was a more typical daily fare for locals:

This is rice with stewed zebu and beans, a bowl of leaf soup, and a jug of complimentary rice tea (the brown jug with the orange cap, in the background).  The rice and stew were delicious--we'd have been very happy to have this more often, but it felt like the tour guides thought it was too poor fare for guests.  The leaf soup was interesting to try, but not good.  The rice tea is made by boiling water in the pan the rice was cooked in, where the browned, rice that is stuck to the pan flavors the now sterilized water.  It wasn't bad, but we mostly stuck to the bottled water.

There were some unusual and wonderful foods too.  Pok-pok jam was like fig jam, but much better.  We missed our chance to try Baobab fruit, unfortunately.