Our Community Stories— Ivy D’Sa
She says she’s just an average cook, but in my opinion, she holds the secret recipe to the perfect Tanzanian snack!
For as long as I can remember, food and cooking have played an important role in my life. From sitting in the kitchen as a young child watching my father make me every meal for our family, licking the bowl and utensils clean of unbaked cake batter and receiving a scolding from my mum that I will get salmonella, to eventually growing up and using whatever skills I had learned along the way to cook meals for myself, as well as, my friends (who dubbed me Chef D). Some may say food is always on my mind — and they aren’t wrong!
While growing up, it took a lot of time for me to learn to be proud of my Goan/Tanzanian food. Other kids in school would laugh at the food I had or comment that my curry smelled bad. This would often lead to me not eating my food or throwing it away. I don’t know the exact time or circumstance that led me to ignore those comments, but thank goodness I came to my senses and found an appreciation for the awesome flavours, colours, smells, and ingredients in our dishes. My goal is to dig up amazing recipes from members in the community and spread the different ways our traditional meals are made — because I can guarantee after eating countless burgers or mac n’ cheese we’ve all had a craving for pulao with chicken curry or ndizi nyama with ugali, but had no idea where to even begin!
To kick things off, I thought I would start with a breakfast and tea staple which just happens to be one of my all-time favourite Tanzanian snacks — Mandazi. To describe it in the simplest terms, it is a delicious, golden-fried bread that pairs perfectly with a cup of chai. I’ve tasted a lot of mandazis in my life and one of my favourites is made by Ivy D’Sa. Her recipe was featured in the Tanzanite Newspaper in 2010 by past president Myra Remedios. So, if you missed it then, be sure to save it now!
In addition to sharing her recipe, I also asked Ivy to share with me how Tanzanian and Goan cooking has been a part of her life. Here’s what she had to say:
“As someone who was born in Zanzibar, lived for 7 years in both Dar es Salaam and Dubai, I only learnt to make mandazis when my family and I moved to Canada almost 24 years ago. Being new immigrants and having a small child, we faced the same challenges a lot of newcomers to Canada do — finding a job, babysitter, transportation, etc. I found myself alone at home when both my husband Luis and son Jonathan were at work/school. To combat the boredom, I started experimenting with different recipes, mandazis being one of them — which was our favourite breakfast food growing up in Tanzania. I tried a few versions of the recipe and finally settled on this one — which was a combination of the different ones I tried. This became everyone’s favourite and I get requests to make them all the time.
Even though I cook the usual Goan food at home — i.e. curries, vindaloo, stew, occasionally sorportel etc. I consider myself an average cook especially when I compare myself to my mum and my sisters Amy and Nancy — who I think are excellent cooks. My late maternal grandfather — Henrique Fernandes owned a small eatery opposite the St. Joseph church in Zanzibar. He was considered an outstanding cook. Unfortunately, we never got to meet him as he passed away young. But I always say I missed out on that gene, although my siblings are quick to point out that God has blessed me with other skills. Fun fact — my family and friends favourite food is actually a Jamaican Pork chop I make!”.
Ivy’s story is one that I’m sure is very relatable to others in the community and I’m so glad she was willing to share with us!
Home cook, amateur, or professional, to me good food speaks for itself. I hope you all get a chance to try this recipe in your home. Ivy warned me that they are time-consuming but so worth the effort — and I decided to try it out for myself! Imitating someone’s personal recipe will never taste the same as the real deal because there is a certain amount of love and care poured into it by that individual. I followed this recipe to a tee and I think they turned out great — my mum thinks so too. I’ll consider that the stamp of approval till I can make them for Ivy and get the official approval!
Aunty Ivy’s Mandazis — Tanzania’s Favourite Bread
Prep time: 1.5 to 2.1 hours
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
500 gm white all-purpose flour
⅓ cup white granulated sugar (add up to ½ cup — depending on how sweet you like it)
Pinch of salt
½ cup warm water (not hot)
1 heaped tsp dry active yeast
½ cup warm milk
1 heaped tbsp butter (softened is easier to work with)
1 egg (beaten)
4–6 cardamoms (ground fine)
A little grated nutmeg (optional)
Vegetable oil for frying
- In a large bowl pour warm water and add the yeast. Sprinkle a little sugar (about 1 tsp) and let it sit for 5–10 minutes until it starts foaming.
2. Add the milk, butter, beaten egg, cardamom and nutmeg to the bloomed yeast mixture. Mix together well. Add sugar, flour and salt to the mixture and knead together till well combined — (do not over knead). If it’s too watery, add a little more flour and if it’s too dry, add extra milk. It should be soft but not sticky. Cover with a wet cloth or in a container with a lid. Set aside for 1 hour.
3. Divide the dough into 4 or 5 even balls. On a floured work surface, roll ball into a disc till it’s about ¼ inch thick. Cut into six triangular pieces (like a pizza). Transfer onto a lined baking sheet. Leave for another ½ to 1 hour to let rise.
4. Heat oil in a deep saucepan/wok on MEDIUM heat. Carefully drop a few triangles at a time. Do not overcrowd!
5. Gently press down each one individually for about 5–10 seconds with a slotted spoon. Cook for a few minutes on each side until golden brown — about 3–5 minutes.
6. Place on paper towels to absorb any excess oil.
Mandazis taste great on their own or served with butter/jam. They also freeze well so if you make a big batch no worries! When you’re ready to eat them, pop them in the toaster (not microwave) and you’re good to go!
If you liked this recipe please share it with your friends and family, and if you decide to make the recipe tag @tanzanitetorontosocial on Facebook or Instagram — we’d love to see how they turn out!
— Magdalena D’Souza (Chef D)