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Cuisine in Madagascar


The cuisine of Madagascar, reflects the influences of successive waves of Southeast Asian, African, Indian, Chinese and European migrants that have settled on the island since its initial population by seafarers from Borneo between the 1st and 5th centuries AD. Rice, the cornerstone of the Malagasy diet, was cultivated alongside tubers and other Southeast Asian staples by these earliest settlers, later complemented by the introduction of beef in the form of zebu by East African migrants around 1,000 AD. Trade with Arab and Indian merchants and European trans-Atlantic traders further enriched the island's culinary traditions by introducing a wealth of new fruits, vegetables and seasoning that combined to produce the cuisine currently enjoyed in Madagascar.

Throughout nearly the entire island, the contemporary cuisine of Madagascar consists of a base of rice (vary) with some form of accompaniment (laoka). Laoka may be vegetarian or include animal proteins typically cooked in a sauce often flavoured with ginger, onion, garlic, vanilla, curry powder or occasionally other spices. In parts of the arid south, pastoral families may replace rice with maize, cassava and curds made from fermented zebu milk. A wide variety of sweet and savoury fritters and other street foods are available across the island, as are diverse tropical and temperate-climate fruits. Locally-produced beverages include fruit juices, coffee, herbal and black teas and alcoholic drinks such as rum, wine and beer.

Meals eaten on Madagascar in the 21st century range from the simple preparations of the earliest settlers and the refined dishes prepared for the island's great monarchs to more recent favourites introduced over the past century by Chinese and Indian immigrants to Madagascan shores, reflecting the historic and contemporary diversity of this Indian Ocean island nation.


Rice (vary) is the cornerstone of the Malagasy diet and is typically consumed at every meal. The verb "to eat" in the Malagasy language is "mihinam-bary" – literally, to eat rice. Rice may be prepared with varying amounts of water to produce a soupy rice (vary sosoa), eaten with dry laoka, or dry rice (vary maina) eaten with a laoka in sauce. Drinks called ranon'ampango and ranovola are made by adding boiling water to the toasted rice left sticking to the interior of its cooking pot, and are served at meals as a sanitary and tasty alternative to water. Vary amin'anana is a popular traditional stew made with rice, meat and chopped greens. Rice is typically eaten for breakfast and may be accompanied with sliced fruit or eaten with such laoka as fried egg, locally-produced sausage or kitoza made of smoked strips of zebu. In urban areas, rice may occasionally be replaced by baguettes spread with butter.


The accompaniment served with rice is called laoka in the Highlands dialect, the official version of the Malagasy language. Laoka are most often served in some kind of sauce: in the Highlands, this sauce is generally tomato-based, while in coastal areas coconut milk is often added during cooking. In the arid southern and western interior where herding zebu is traditional, fresh or curdled zebu milk is often incorporated into vegetable dishes. Laoka are diverse and may include such ingredients as Bambara peas (voanjobory) with pork, beef or fish; various types of freshwater fish (trondro gasy); shredded cassava leaves (ravitoto) with peanuts, voanjobory, beef or pork; beef (henan'omby) or chicken (akoho) sautéed with ginger and garlic or simmered in its own juices (ritra); beef stewed with mixed greens, ginger, tomato and onion (a dish called romazava); various types of seafood, which are more readily available along the coasts or in large urban centres; and many more. In the arid south and west, such as among the Bara or Tandroy peoples, staples include sweet potato, yams, taro root and especially cassava, millet and maize, generally boiled in water and occasionally served in whole milk or flavoured with crushed peanuts.

Garlic, onions, ginger, tomatoes, mild curry, and salt are the most common ingredients used to flavour dishes, and in coastal areas other ingredients such as coconut milk, vanilla, cloves or turmeric may also be used. A spicy condiment made from red or green chilli pepper (sakay) is served on the side rather than mixing the chillies directly into the food as it is being cooked. Indian-style condiments made of pickled mango, lemon, and other fruits (known as achards), are a speciality of the northwestern coast; other variations on the achard are found throughout Southeast Asia where they are known by variant names such as acar or achar. An achard-like salad of green beans, cabbage, carrots and onion in a vinaigrette sauce (lasary) is also popular as a side dish – or as the filling of a baguette sandwich – in the Highlands.

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