The most common rice dishes in Madagascar
Malagasy people will invite you to eat by saying: “Manasa hihinam-bary!” – which literally means “Let’s eat rice!”. They will not just invite you to eat at their place but rather to share a plate of rice with them. That says a lot! One must understand by this that rice is, and will be, part of any meal in Madagascar. Rice does have a huge influence in malagasy’s culture and life because it is all about rice in Madagascar.
This article will show you the most common rice recipes that you could eat (everyday!) while in Madagascar. You’ll be less surprised of what’s going on, or better, you could pretend to be a malagasy rice regular and be less intimidating to the local people. One must remember that creating a favorable atmosphere for communication with Malagasy people will definitely lead to the most authentik discoveries and experiences possible.
In Madagascar, when it comes to rice, there is always the side dishes called laoka (for more information click here). Rice accompaniments depend on the local food production and on the preparation of the rice dish as you will see below.
Local meaning : Vary maina – literally dry rice
Recipe: The rice is cooked with the same amount of water (half rice, half water) added gradually for about thirty minutes until all the water is totally absorbed. The rice is dry and hence the name. A good vary maina should be thoroughly cooked and soft while being dry so that the rice seeds don’t stick together and scatter on the plate while serving. If the seeds are sticky, the cook is not a good one. Rice varieties used in the vary maina recipe are the luxury ones as makalioka which is similar to basmati rice but perfumeless. The famous ranonampango or ranovola is prepared after vary maina cooking .
Side dishes: chicken, beef, pork or fish with vegetables, stewed or in a sauce. Malagasy are rarely vegetarian or vegan unless the family’s economy implies it. Animals intended for food are raised extensively and are more organic and more flavorful than what is found in industrial countries. Hormonal injections and accelerated growth are still unknown among malagasy farmers.
With the vary maina, as it is dry by definition, if the laoka does not have enough juice or sauce a ro matsatso dish – literally tasteless broth – will complement the meal. Ro matsatso is a clear green vegetable stock with no salt, hence the name. It is actually intended to be consumed not for its taste but to wet the dry rice and then swallow it easier.
Ideal for: lunchtime
Local meaning: If there is dry rice or vary maina, there is definitely juicy rice! And that is vary sosoa.
Recipe: Cook rice red (yes red rice!) or white rice with two times of its volume (2 cups of water for 1 cup of rice). The difference between red and white rice is that red rice is a bit sweeter. Sosoa rice should be tender, smooth and light taste because of the juice. This dish has the consistency of european risotto but with a little more juice. Vary sosoa is rarely made with luxury rice but rather poorer quality rice varieties.
Side dishes: The favorite one is certainly the kitoza. It is a dried and smoked meat strips, about 3 to 4 cm thick (the length varies). Usually, kitoza is fried or grilled. There is also the hena baolina (meatballs) fried or boiled, fried or grilled fish, or other ” dry ” side dishes with no sauce or juice. Morning accompaniments may also be hard-boiled egg, omelette, or fried eggs.
Ideal for: breakfast or dinner as the Malagasy eat light at these meals. Also ideal when one is sick and it is then more like a rice soup -very easy to swallow.
Rice with leafy vegetables
Local meaning: Vary amin’anana. Leafy vegetables are different sorts of edible green leaves one can find easily in every international grocery store. Spinach, coriander, or cress are very common leafy food in Madagascar. The hot ones also known as anamalao is the most appropriate for preparing this rice recipe because of that little kick of spiciness. There are several varieties of leafy vegetables according to the taste, the texture and therefore the preparation.
Recipe: The vary amin’anana is a variant of vary sosoa but cooked along with leafy vegetables. For this recipe, you can use a single variety or a mix of leafy vegetables. Chop the leaves finely and mix them with the rice and water at the beginning of cooking. Always use water of twice the volume of rice. A small bunch of leaves should be enough for a pot of rice – about 3 liters of capacity. Season to taste with salt, dried mini-shrimp named locally patsa. Simmer until rice is tender and have the consistency of creamy vary sosoa. The vegetables would then have time to brew the rice which absorbs the flavor and also the green color – in the case you use white rice. Vary amin’anana can also be prepared easily with red rice.
Side dishes : similar to vary sosoa
Ideal for: breakfast and dinner
Local meaning: Vary amin’ny voanio
Recipe: Coconut rice is a variant of vary maina flavored with coconut milk. It is more common in coastal area of Madagascar, where coconuts are abondant and affordable. To prepare this recipe, cook a volume of rice in the same volume of water and coconut milk mixture. The average proportion of the liquid is half coconut milk and half water. The texture of the cooked coconut rice andshould be similar to steamed rice.
Side dishes : similar to vary maina
Ideal for: lunch, especially for holiday meals because it’s quite tasty and rich.
Malagasy style fried rice
Local meaning: Some call it dirty rice or cantonese rice or vary maloto or vary zoridira – literally garbage rice (!) since it looks like one with all of the multiple ingredients … The rice is mixed with all sorts of vegetables, meat or fish.
Recipe: Cantonese rice is also a variant of vary maina. A volume of rice is cooked in the same volume of water with a teaspoon of curry to have a yellowish color or soy sauce to have a brownish color. As its name suggests, the rice is mixed with ingredients fried individually added at the end of cooking. The ingredients cut into cubes can be meat, fish, chicken, green beans, carrots, omelet, peas, etc..
Side dishes : Various kinds of pickled vegetables or raw salad made with carrots, tomatoes (including the famous rougail), cucumber, etc.. There may also have grilled or fried meat, chicken or fish.
Ideal for: lunch and dinner on holidays meal or for receiving.