Ugali, Coconut Beans, and other Tanzanian Food
Ugali, Coconut Beans, and other Tanzanian Food

First Taste of Tanzanian Food


Ugali, Coconut Beans, and other Tanzanian Food

Ugali, coconut beans, and other Tanzanian Food cooked by the Steffensens

Elizabeth and I recently enjoyed our first taste of traditional Tanzanian food.  And we loved it!

Deacon Leslie Steffensen, her husband Kirk, and their children, Greg, Henry, and Charlotte invited us to dinner in their Virginia home to tell us about their experiences at Msalato Theological College.  They lived there during the 2006-07 school year, doing similar work to what Elizabeth and I expect to do there this year.

The Steffensens served us a traditional Tanzanian meal.  The staple food, ugali – consists of cornmeal boiled to a thick consistency and served like mashed potatoes.  To eat ugali, you mold it into the shape of a bowl and scoop up sauces, stews, or meat with it.  (Though Tanzanians usually eat with their hands, we opted for fork and knife for now).  Leslie cooked a bean sauce featuring fresh coconut that she carved using a traditional Tanzanian coconut carver.  She also served chicken, bananas, okra, and other traditional foods.

After dinner the Steffensens showed us a slideshow of their adventures in Tanzania, and gave us many pointers.  Deacon Leslie taught many of the same classes Elizabeth will be teaching, and Kirk set up the computer network that Ben will help maintain.

After dining with the Steffensen’s we are more excited than ever to travel to Tanzania!

Visit the Steffensens’ blog at

Author: Benjamin Locher

Benjamin Locher grew up with his parents and two younger brothers in Johnstown, Pa, about an hour and a half east of Pittsburgh. He graduated from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., with a degree in government and a minor in Information Systems. It was there that he met and fell in love with his joyful, sweet, beautiful and a only a slight-bit crazy red-headed wife, Elizabeth. They met at the Canterbury Episcopal Ministry and first really got to know each other during a mission trip to Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic. After graduating, Ben worked as an Information Technology consultant for CGI Federal in Fairfax, VA and then as a web developer for the action-tank American Solutions, in Washington D.C. Today, he works for SRA International as a web developer at the General Accountability Office, a wing of the U.S. Congress. Ben is a member of St. Paul’s Parish on K Street in Washington, DC, where he is an altar server and ward secretary of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament. He is looking forward to the chance to get out of his comfort zone and share the love of Christ in a more particular way, though he is wondering if his deadpan sarcasm will translate into Swahili!


  1. Hello there!

    Hope your work is going well in Tanzania. I have a question for you. My name is Christina and I work in the kitchen at Hand in Hand christian Montessori in Roseville, MN. During the months of January and May we study a total of five different countries around the world and eat foods, do art projects, study geography, etc. from the countries chosen. This year I suggested Tanzania because I have a special place in my heart for this country because we have sponsored a girl there in Arusha City for 10 years now through Compassion International. In the meantime I am researching some food ideas for Tanzania and came across the delicious looking food plate you have on your blog from the Steffensen family. I know about ugali, and have some good ideas about what the dishes are in the picture, but I was wondering if you have any of the recipes for the kale/spinach dish, the bean dish, and the okra dish. Also, is the other vegetable cabbage? Do you know of a good way to prepare plaintains for dessert? Any information would be greatly appreciated. Asante sana.

    • The other vegetable was cabbage. I don’t have any of the recipes myself, but I could ask the woman who made them if she has recipes. I am still trying to figure out that dessert myself – here in Dodoma they usually use green bananas for dessert instead of plantains, but mine always come out mushy – it’s a mystery I’m still trying to uncover!

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