What’s for Dinner? Unexpected Delicacies of Tanzania

Written by Thomson Safaris

It goes without saying that different cultures love different foods; where you’re born is debatably the primary influence on how (and what) you eat.

Some of the following foods may not sound appealing to a western palate, but in Tanzania, they’re favorites. While poaching is still a major concern in Africa, none of the following foods is considered bush meat.


African Civet“Civettictis civetta 11” by Николай Усик / https://paradoxusik.livejournal.com/ – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Civettictis_civetta_11.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Civettictis_civetta_11.jpg

In America, we’ve been taught that pork is “the other white meat,” but in Africa, that title goes to a different animal: the civet. The meat is said to be excellent, and very lightly fruit-flavored, because of the high fruit content in the civet’s diet.

The civet is also valued for a very different reason; glands near its tail produce a strong, musky substance. While it smells decidedly funky on its own, perfumers love it as a rich, earthy addition to scents.

Fruit Bat

Fruit bat

“Lesser short-nosed fruit bat (Cynopterus brachyotis)” by Anton 17 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lesser_short-nosed_fruit_bat_(Cynopterus_brachyotis).jpg#mediaviewer/File:Lesser_short-nosed_fruit_bat_(Cynopterus_brachyotis).jpg

The best known eaters of fruit bats live on Palau, an island situated between the Phillipines and Micronesia, known by many as the setting for the tenth season of Survivor. But they’re just one of many cultures that consider bats—particularly fruit bats—a delicacy. Residents of Guam have long considered fruit bat meat a delicacy, and Tanzanians living on the island of Pemba, just off the coast, also regularly eat bat meat. And though you won’t see bat on western menus today, in 1971 The New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook featured a recipe for fruit bat soup.

Unfortunately, this is one exotic taste with a serious downside: bats share a large portion of their DNA with humans, and bat consumption has been linked to outbreaks of SARS and even Ebola.


Photo: Thomson Safaris guest, Kristen Boren

It’s a bit of a truism that any strange meat “tastes just like chicken.”

Crocodile’s flavor may be a bit different, but with low fat content and high levels of protein, this meat is often cooked “just like chicken,” in everything from skewers to stir-fries. The tail, however, is highly fatty, and generally isn’t eaten by Tanzanians (though they will occasionally serve it to tourists).

Though the idea of eating crocodile may seem exotic to some, its American cousin, alligator, hasappeared on western menus for years, now, especially in the South.


Photo: Thomson Safaris guest, Peter Rubin

Yes, a warthog may have tusks, and better hair than its porcine cousins, but at the end of the day, if it looks like a pig, it’s probably going to taste like a pig.

It’s also usually eaten like pig: roasts, ribs, legs and chops appear regularly in recipes.



Found only in Lake Tanganyika, kapenta is probably one of the most polarizing dishes on the East African menu, at least as far as flavor.

Small, sardine-like fish, kapenta are traditionally salted and dried in the sun for a day or more, then cooked up with vegetables. They’re also regularly served marinated, a preparation that will taste vaguely familiar to anyone who’s ever tried pickled herring.

As with many sardines and anchovies, kapenta isn’t boned before it’s prepared, meaning this little fish will pack a flavorful punch…and, for some people, an off-putting crunch.