Surviving as a Vegetarian or Vegan In Tanzania

Post-Hike Cola and Nibbles © Jessica Gatfield

So the question’s came.

‘You’re not going to still be vegan in Africa are you? Just be un-vegan yeah?’

‘You do know that you will HAVE to eat meat when you’re there, they don’t understand Vegetarians and definitely don’t cater for Vegans’

‘Quick, start eating lots of dairy and eggs before you go and maybe try eating meat again to prepare yourself’

‘You’re going to suffer from lack of protein and starve to death’

Being relatively new to the Vegan lifestyle before my trip away, I became overwhelmed with the negative responses. That, and the moral reasoning to why I chose to become vegan aside, I was even more determined to tackle the challenge of eating animal-free in Tanzania head on. Let’s say I was well prepared before I left. I packed over 60 seed bars, enough vitamins and supplements to last me twice my trip over and learnt how to elaborate my animal product free lifestyle in Swahili.

Nakumat Supermarket

To my surprise, Nakumat was a haven for vegan and vegetarian foods. The fresh foods section stocked an array of wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables: the more exotic including pre-packed stir fry kits, fresh ginger, asparagus (very pricy!), grapes and even strawberries (also extortionately priced!) Fresh blocks of Tofu were to be found in the refrigerated section, but were best bought when a fresh batch had arrived as it wasn’t the most common staple in local Tanzanian’s diets. Egg and Dairy free mayo was also found in the cooler section but I didn’t have a chance to try, just glance at in awe!

In the dry foods section, the cereal selection was thriving. Dorset Cereals were on sale for a pricey 13,000 TSH a piece (£4.84) with over four different varieties to nibble upon. Weetabix, Cornflakes and other grain based cereals were available, many commerical brands being dearer in price than others. Nakumat stocked many varieties of Oreos, the original being vegan friendly and the other varieties just vegetarian; flavours included Strawberry CremeDouble Delight Peanut Butter ‘n Chocolate Creme and Double Stuf’. In the bakery section, fresh cakes and cookies were available daily. It was just my luck that I found coconut cashew cookies that were not only super tasty but completely vegan, a complete parallel to the butter and egg laden other confectionery that surrounded it. Cashew Nuts were in abundance along with peanuts and the sweeter varieties in forms of nut brittles.

The tinned section saw Heinz baked beans, a British favourite and a traditional home comfort which made beans on toast a complete luxury and biweekly meal. Chickpeas were also to be found, adding protein to that diet of mine, as well as a key ingredient to attempting home-made hummus. Let’s just say, Tanzanian’s oranges look like lemons, the lack of tahini really does make a difference in taste and olive oil is overpriced and to be used sparingly. However, mashed orangey chickpeas was a great addition to carrots and cucumber crudites!

Rafiki Mini Supermarket & Aleem’s Grocery

Miraculously on my first day I stumbled across Rafiki Mini Supermarket and its array of not one, not two, but three different brands of Soya Milk. They had a large selection of Hot Chocolate powders, warm cocoa being a favourite on safari to keep you warm in the Serengeti (Yes, it does get cold!), the best being Cadbury’s pure cocoa. Made with hot water and sugar: Perfection in a mug! Rafiki’s and Aleem’s stocked Green Tea, good quality coffee and an array of fruit juices. Brown rice and wholewheat pasta was easily found allowing a break from the white rice or ugali found at every meal. Aleem’s provided us with egg-free noodles as well as rice noodles and an array of Heinz vegetable soups. They too stocked a great variety of cereals including Crunchy Nut, Jordan’s muesli and Cheerios.

Abba Ali’s Hot Bread Shop

Opposite Aleem’s Grocery on Boma Road, Abba Ali’s bakery could be found. If you’re in need of seeded breads, french baguettes or sliced loaves, you’re in for a treat. I will pre-warn however, due to the high temperatures of Moshi itself, the bread needs to ideally be eaten on the day it is bought or frozen and then eaten toasted. Let’s just say, the french baguette on Day 2 has more use as a weapon than it does as an edible item.

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German Bakery Order: Afternoon Tea! Photo Credits: Kandi Kwok

My Rafiki’s and I were ever so lucky to hear through the grapevine of a German bakery in Arusha that delivered orders to a German ladies house in Moshi on a fortnightly basis. We soon sourced the bakery booklet, spent days looking through the huge variety of breads, rolls and sweets, placed our large order and waited patiently. The order arrived in Moshi and we went to collect. The woman herself was shocked that the large amount of food was only for four people; we came home with 6 or 7 bags full to the brim of fresh baked goods eager for afternoon tea! The vegan selection that I delved into was of course the Tanzania seeded bread, a Danish Scone and a Sesame Pretzel. My fellow buddies ordered the likes of Raisin bread, crusty Baguettes, Apple Tasche and Nut Snails. A danish scone finished with strawberry jam and an english breakfast tea topped off the warm sweaty afternoon!

Fresh Fruit and Veg from the Mama’s

Moving away from shops and supermarkets, the best place for Mother Nature’s goodness is from the Mama’s in their makeshift shacks on the roadside. Bananas, Avocados, Tomatoes, Onions, Carrots, Cucumbers, Aubergines, Potatoes and Oranges. Cheap, organic and very tasty, the mama’s need all of the support they can get to make an income. I preferred to buy my fresh produce from the roadside and the cupboard staples from the shops listed above.

Surviving as a vegetarian: piece of pie, as a vegetarian-vegan (a vegan who dips into vegetarianism when options aren’t available) relatively straightforward and a strict vegan: manageable. Going abroad to a foreign country does not mean your morals, beliefs or lifestyle choices have to change. However, the ability to adjust and respect the culture you have been submersed in goes hand in hand with that phrase. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices and forgive yourself for matters out of your control. (Even If that means eating a non-vegan muffin and cold pancakes in your packed lunch on safari when there is nothing else to eat for the foreseeable future!).

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