The delights of Madagascar are not limited to its amazing beaches, its stunning landscapes and its exceptional biodiversity. From traditional dishes to street food, there is also a whole range of culinary delights, based on ingredients from both the earth and the sea.
Gargotes on national roads
The Hotely Gasy (small local restaurants), seen almost everywhere by the sides of the main roads, only serve typical Malagasy dishes. While more expensive restaurants are to be found only in the large towns, small family businesses offer guests exceptional – and delicious – culinary experiences. This type of restaurant is often part of a small house, with a few tables and chairs set up for customers to sit at and enjoy their meal. The dishes most commonly served here are usually based on akoho gasy (chicken), hena omby ritra (braised beef) and variations of these, such as varanga (thinly sliced zebu) manara molotra or ravitoto (ground cassava leaves). Of course, there are other recipes and the menu will depend on the products available in the region where the hotely gasy is located.
At the end of the afternoon, the Malagasy people enjoy grilling. From mofo akondro (banana fritter) to grilled fish, fried fish, mosakiky (fried shrimp), grilled banana plantain and cassava. This appointment has become a regular occurrence both in the capital and on the coast.
The famous ravitoto
Ravitoto is the best-known Malagasy recipe, served up at all celebrations. It consists of chopped cassava leaves generally served with pork or zebu meat. Coconut milk or ginger can also be added for extra flavour. It is generally served with rice and fresh tomato chutney.
Formerly reserved for kings and queens, romazava has become a national dish and present in all Malagasy tables. Literally translated as 'clear broth' this speciality is one of the elements of the famous hanimpitoloha (seven royal dishes). It is thus prepared from the noble meat of Madagascar that is the zebu, flavoured with brèdes including the anamaho or brèdes mafana. Ingredients vary from region to region and according to the convenience of the cook. In ribs, for example, chicken or fish will be used instead of zebu so that the taste is more pronounced.
The essential hen’omby ritra
Simple but really delicious, hen’omby ritra is one of the island’s specialities. Oily, rich and tasty, it consists of zebu meat macerated with ginger and garlic and left to simmer until the liquid evaporates. Like ravitoto, it is served with rice and fresh tomato chutney.
Tsaramaso sy hena kisoa
Tsaramaso, or white beans, is another must during your stay in Madagascar. It is very easy to prepare: the white beans are left to simmer with pieces of pork and sometimes, for added taste, garlic. It is served with rice and often with a spicy salad of chopped vegetables (achards).
Ravimbomanga sy patsa
Served as a broth or as a main dish, ravimbomanga sy patsa is one of the finest dishes of Malagasy cuisine. It is prepared with the leaves of sweet potato mixed with dried and salted red shrimps cooked together in a mixture of garlic and tomatoes and, of course, served up with rice. Cooking time is just 10 minutes and the dish is always served hot.
Gisa sy hena kisoa
For celebrations, we have gisa sy henakisoa or goose and pork meat. Due to the price of goose meat, unlike the other recipes this one is reserved for celebrations: weddings or religious festivals. However, restaurants specialising in Malagasy cuisine often include it on their menu. The preparation is left to simmer until the sauce, rich in garlic, is reduced.
Koba, typical Malagasy cake
For dessert, try koba, traditional Malagasy cake prepared using crushed peanuts, sugar and flour. The ingredients are mixed together, then wrapped in banana leaves and plunged in hot water to cook for about 48 hours. The village of Talatanivolonondry, north of the capital, is reputed for the production of this delight. For traditional ceremonies, koba is often served up, instead of western cakes.
A large variety of sweet, savoury or even sweet-and-savoury donuts are prepared all over the island. Each region has its own speciality, generally served up with tea or coffee.
Menakely, Malagasy-style donut
Menakely, also referred to as Malagasy-style donut owes its name to its shape. One of the sweet delights served up for breakfast, it is cooked in oil in a saba, a large frying pan. The donuts are prepared using rice or corn flour and sugar.
Le mofo baolina, literally ball-shaped bread
The dough for mofo baolina, made with flour and sugar, is left to rise for two hours. Like menakely, it is then fried in plenty of oil in a saba, after being shaped into a ball. It is eaten for breakfast, but also at tea time. It is quite filling and denser than other similar preparations.
Ramanonaka and mofo gasy
These two cakes are prepared using rice flour. They are baked in a special cake dish, giving them their round flat shape. The difference between them is the taste: ramanonaka is savoury and mofo gasy is the sweet version.
The main element of street food in Madagascar are tsaky, which are not really typical Malagasy recipes, but are sold everywhere, including markets. They consist of spring rolls, samosas and catless (savoury Indian fritters).
Among the commonest tsaky you can buy are masikita. Basically, these are thin skewers of zebu meat, grilled on a charcoal fire with a little oil and sometimes a slice of fat from the zebu’s hump. Occasionally the zebu meat is replaced by other parts of the animal such as the heart or kidneys.