m-adventure pt. two : i love rice
location | Antananarivo, Madagascar
Rice, I genuinely love it. I'm going to put this down to genetics and an ever growing love affair. I can honestly say that I was pretty excited when a got a rice cooker for Christmas a few years ago. All I could think about was how much rice I could potentially eat. Nom.
If you are a fellow rice-lover, then Madagascar is an ideal destination [I think Asia's a pretty good bet too but they don't have lemurs to hang out with while you're eating all of that rice]. Why? Because to the majority of Malagasy people, rice is a staple. Some countries eat lots of bread, others potatoes or noodles, but Madagascar… it's all about the rice. White rice, brown rice, black rice, red rice [yes, red! thanks to that lovely red soil], there's something for everyone. Hurrah!
(main) keeping it simple: "what's available: rice, accompaniment (various options), soup. Come in madam/sir!"
A typical day could see you eating rice with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Generally, a big heap of rice is the core of the meal and then loaka [the tasty bit to most] is added with a vegetable accompaniment on the side called lasary [normally a tomato salsa or carrot-cabbage salad]. Oh and don't forget the sakay [chilli paste] for spicing things up a bit. I also really like a dish called vary amin anana, a warm savoury rice soup with greens [delicious for breakfast], and ravitoto sy côcô which is ground cassava leaves in coconut milk. These are all lunches I had, Malagasy/healthy-style: (1) rice with carrot-cabbage salad, black-eyed beans, chilli peppers, carrot and green bean ratatouille and angivy [african aubergines, bitter but tasty] (2) rice with chicken and peas, cucumber salad, green bean and carrot ratatouille (3) rice with carrot-cabbage salad, chilli peppers, angivy, pumpkin and chayote [pear squash / vegetable pear] ratatouille.
To me, it's a much healthier and natural lifestyle. Everything I ate either came fresh from the garden or from locals who grow [or find] their own produce to then sell at roadside markets. As for homegrown goods, I was nowhere near brave enough to climb a thinly branched tree but Claude was and he collected so many chuchus [chayote, vegetable pear] for us from the vines in the garden. (1) Claude braving the mango tree to collect chuchu for the next two days' meals (2) winning: a basket full of chuchus, litchis, tomato fruit and herbs all from the garden (3) me attempting to "help" with a stick.
If the garden has an off day or you want variety slash find something a little different then the roadside markets are the places to be hunting and gathering. Whether you are in town or coming back into town from somewhere fun, there will always be sellers with delicious and fresh goods on the way. (1) plump peaches and rosy plums [the sweetest, juiciest plums I have ever eaten!] (2) a more traditional roadside style market with a variety of greens and vegetables (3) discovering local purple mushrooms [nom, delicious].
And though there are butchers amongst the markets, we always buy meat fresh. And when I say fresh, I mean alive. Some may be uncomfortable if you're not used to this but I like knowing exactly where my food comes from. [Caution: please do not try this at home unless you have experience and knowledge of how-to] (1) all our market veggies, and I guess we're having chicken tonight chick-chicken tonight (2) I see your pig in a blanket, and raise you a pig in a basket.
For something a little bit more special, you'll have to drive out of the city to a place called Behenjy where there is a special little shop. This shop is in a restaurant called Coin du Foie Gras and it sells small tubs of the most delicious foie gras I have ever tried. They come in various flavours: natural, black pepper, rose, ginger, vanilla and more. If you're adventurous I would definitely go for it and try out a new flavour combination, and if you're feeling indulgent the restaurant also serves a Royal Hamburger which is steak haché, salad, tomato, pan fried foie gras, cheese and gherkin in a bun with fries for a cool £12. Nom. (1) restaurant Coin du Foie Gras, a foodie's dream (2) where you could casually chow down on some high-end Royal Burger.
When you're done with the hunt for some good food, then other fun things you could do are (1) try my favourite soft drink: Bonbon Anglais, local lemonade which literally translates as English Sweet [expect it to be sweet as] (2) try a local snack called mofo gasy or mokary, a sweet rice cake which you can have plain or with coconut. Yumm-y.
And if it's all getting a bit much, head back out to the countryside to admire where all this delicious fresh food comes from. (1) carrying leeks through the rice fields (2) chayote / vegetable pear heaven, vining everywhere (3) flags galore: the rice is ready!
So that was what I ate. Nothing weird really but maybe a few new things some of you might not have tried before. Felt super healthy afterwards which has inspired me to eat fresh wherever possible now that I'm back.
To find out what I actually did in Madagascar, check out m-adventure pt. one : the red island.