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Madagascar

Eating in Madagascar: on the plate of a gourmande

Malagasy trilogy: rice, zebu and bicycle chicken

The Malagasy people eat rice three times a day. Traditionally, it's cooked until it burns the inside bottom of the pot, and then this burnt rice, ranonapango, is used to make a drink with a smoky aroma that will be served during the meal.

Malagasy rice is quite disappointing to Western taste buds: it's found everywhere, and its large white grains have very little flavour. Good rice is exported. As a side dish, sweet potatoes are more interesting and fleshy.

Zebu meat, in infinite variations: cooked over a fire, served as carpaccio, stewed, or even accompanied by some tiny microscopic fish. Zebu is much more flavourful than beef, because its flesh is tender: an explosion of tenderness and flavour, don't deny yourself of it!

The Malagasy also eat “bicycle chicken,” nicknamed this because the bird runs around back and forth, and the flesh is dry and muscular.

Iconic Malagasy dishes

In the “hotely” - small, popular restaurants - or in more touristy restaurants, you'll always see two traditional Malagasy dishes:

- romazava: a broth made from "bredes," the edible leaves of various vegetables - prepared with zebu beef stew

- ravitoto sy henakisoa: cassava leaves pounded and cooked with pieces of pork fat.

Food-related snapshots from Madagascar

- Rummaging through the markets to be surprised at not being able to identify fruits, vegetables or tubers lying on the mats. In Madagascar, I tried a custard apple for the first time, which tasted like a jellied pear. Bredes, greens that look like spinach, with a strong presence in Malagasy cuisine, are delicious, just like sweet potato leaves and mashed cassava leaves.

- To taste the freshness of the Madagascar coast, we can choose from huge lobster with garlic and spicy tomato chutney, generous pan-fried shrimp, the aromas of barracuda with crushed garlic and pink peppercorns, bream as big as the fisherman's arm cooked over a wood fire on the beach, or even candied hot pepper mangrove crabs sprinkled with a drizzle of lime...

- When it's time to eat, try the little squares of peanuts-caramel nougatine, which are sold on the side of the road or in markets.

- Madagascar can boast about having the most aromatic rums there are: we'll gladly try the "rhums arrangés," which are infused with any exotic fruit you can imagine, as well as spices, and even coffee beans! The more traditional ones are pineaplle, vanilla, and cinnamon. I won’t ever forget my first sip of a rum with ginger and lime, extraordinary, powerful and surprising. The Malagasy drink rum the "toaka gasy" way, flavoured with the bark of the rotra, a rainforest tree.

- And for dessert, delicious bananas flambées: with caramel, ginger and of course, rhum arrangé. One last sweet treat before going home? A mango julienne that brightens up a coconut shortbread.. Yes, happiness is on the plate!

Aline Gernay
6 contributions
Updated 29 September 2015
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