Malagasy cuisine encompasses the many diverse culinary traditions of the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar. Foods eaten in Madagascar reflect the influence of Southeast Asian, African, Indian, Chinese and European migrants that have settled on the island. Rice, the cornerstone of the Malagasy diet, was cultivated alongside tubers and other Southeast Asian staples by these earliest settlers.
About Malagasy cuisine in brief
Malagasy cuisine encompasses the many diverse culinary traditions of the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar. Foods eaten in Madagascar reflect the influence of Southeast Asian, African, Indian, Chinese and European migrants that have settled on the island since it was first populated by seafarers from Borneo between 100 CE and 500 CE. Rice, the cornerstone of the Malagasy diet, was cultivated alongside tubers and other Southeast Asian staples by these earliest settlers. Their diet was supplemented by foraging and hunting wild game, which contributed to the extinction of the island’s bird and mammal megafauna. These food sources were later complemented by beef in the form of zebu introduced into Madagascar by East African migrants arriving around 1,000 CE. Trade with Arab and Indian merchants and European transatlantic traders further enriched the island’s culinary traditions by introducing a wealth of new fruits, vegetables, and seasonings. The range of dishes eaten inagascar in the 21st century reflects the Island’s history and demographic diversity. The complexity of meals can range from the simple, traditional preparations introduced by the earliest settlers, to the refined festival dishes prepared for the 19th-century monarchs. A wide variety of sweet and savory fritters as well as other street foods are available across the island, as are diverse tropical and temperate-climate fruits. Locally produced beverages include fruit juices, coffee, herbal teas and teas, and alcoholic drinks such as rum, wine, and beer.
Early settlers practiced tavy to clear the virgin coastal rainforests for the cultivation of crops. They also gathered honey, fruits, bird and crocodile eggs, mushrooms, edible seeds and roots, and brewed alcoholic beverages from honey and sugar cane juice. Game was regularly hunted and trapped in the forests, including frogs, snakes, lizards, hedgehogs and tenrecs, tortoises, wild boars, insects, larvae, birds and lemurs. The first settlers encountered Madagascar’s wealth ofmegafauna, including giant lemur, elephant birds, giant fossa and the Malgasy hippopotamus. Early MalagASY communities may have eaten the eggs and—less commonly—the meat of Aepyornis maximus, the world’s largest bird, which remained widespread throughout Madagascar as recently as the 17th century. Although it has been illegal to hunt or trade the remaining species of lemur since 1964, these endangered animals continue to be hunted for local consumption in rural areas or some urban restaurants. By 600CE settlers had moved inland and begun clearing forests and begun covering the original area of forest with terraced paddies. Irrigated rice paddies were adopted in the highlands of Imerina in the southern highlands. By the time of the first Bileo country in the first century of the 20th century, Madagascar’s original area had been covered over by the original highlands, then later in the central highlands in the south.