Eggs a la Africa

OK, I know I said earlier this week that Tanzania doesn’t have an awful lot of food to write home about, but there is one dish you really do need to know about. Actually, it’s pretty much the de facto national dish of Tanzania and I have to declare that it is pretty damn amazing.

Anywhere you go in this country, you’ll see little makeshift stands along the side of the road, generally stocked with just two things:

1) A giant, wok-like bowl set over a fire, perpetually cooking up a new batch of french fries in a big ol’ pool of oil.

2) A crate of farm-fresh eggs.

So what exactly do they make at all of these mysterious egg and french fry stands?

They make a muthafuckin french fry omelet, fool! Doesn’t require much of an explanation, really. You just throw the french fries in a pan and re-fry them with a bunch of eggs poured around them. Depending on how fancy your roadside stand is, your french fry omelet might be served with a slaw of fresh vegetables, just with a few spicy pili pili peppers on the side, or sometimes you just get salt and ketchup. Also depending on how fancy the stand is, you might get a toothpick or two to break it apart and eat it with, or you might simply have to go ahead and barehand it. In Swahili it’s known as chips mayai (chips and eggs), and it can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, midday snack, midnight snack — really, it’s always acceptable, and I know exactly what I’ll be doing next time I find myself at home with leftover french fries.

A Breakfast Revelation: BananaCado

Jambo, America. As some of you know, I have spent the past six weeks avoiding winter in Tanzania, East Africa. I haven’t blogged much, because I have to say that the food here is, for the most part, not crazy enough to write home about (no bacon-donut-fried-chicken sandwiches in Africa for some reason). However, this continent does have something that America most certainly does not: the very best fruit salesmen in the world.

You never have to look far to find a streetside stand selling avocados, mangoes, papayas, and all kinds of other tropical fruit. But the best part is that the fruit salesmen will always help you pick out the most ideal piece of fruit, depending on when you want to eat it. On my first avocado buying mission the day that I got here, I used my extremely limited Swahili (OK fine, I used mostly sign language), to tell the salesman that I wanted three avocados. He promptly picked out three avocados for me and, using sign language and Swahinglish, handed them to me in order of ripeness, instructing me that “this one is today, this one tomorrow, this one the day after tomorrow.” How great is that! The same thing happened when I returned to buy two mangoes — I was given one perfectly ripe one, and one almost perfectly ripe one. Can this happen in every supermarket in the world, please?

Anyway, this is all meant to lead up to a story about the craziest, most amazing (but really kind of simple) sandwich that I’ve eaten in Africa. On a trek through the beautiful, remote Usambara mountains, our guide introduced us to a surprising breakfast: one half of an avocado, plus one half of a banana, with a hefty helping of salt, rolled up in a chapati (Indian-style bread). I never thought to mix banana and avo before, but it’s really an ingenious combo–two rich, hearty fruits that play surprisingly well together, for a sweet, salty and savory sandwich. Paired with a slice of mango, I’d say it’s damn near a perfect breakfast.

Not sure whether or not it would be better with bacon.