Romazava: A Guide to Madagascar’s National Dish

Romazava is a cherished dish in Madagascar, often considered the national dish. It’s a hearty stew, brimming with meat and leafy greens, simmered to perfection. The name Romazava translates to “boiled greens,” but this simple description belies the depth of flavor and cultural significance packed into every bowl.

Our team at Remitly created this guide as part of our series that celebrates the traditions of our customers around the world.

The History of Romazava

The origins of Romazava are deeply rooted in Malagasy culture. It’s believed to have been around for centuries, passed down through generations. This traditional meal was initially prepared using wild game and local vegetables, reflecting the island’s rich biodiversity.

Over time, as Madagascar interacted with different cultures through trade and colonization, the recipe evolved. However, its core elements remained unchanged—meat and leafy greens—making it a timeless symbol of Malagasy culinary heritage.

Ingredients Used in Romazava

Romazava is known for its simplicity and reliance on fresh ingredients. The primary components are meat—typically beef or chicken—and an assortment of leafy greens known as ‘anamamy’. These include paracress (anamalao), mustard greens (anatsonga), and spinach-like leaves (anamafaitra).

The stew also features tomatoes, onions, garlic, ginger, and sometimes even crushed red pepper for heat. Each ingredient contributes to the overall flavor profile of the dish—earthy from the greens, savory from the meat, tangy from the tomatoes—all harmoniously balanced.

Recipe for Romazava

Romazava is a dish that invites experimentation, but here’s a basic recipe to get you started. Remember, the key to a great Romazava is fresh ingredients and patience.


  • 500g of beef or chicken, cut into chunks
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • A thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • A handful each of paracress (anamalao), mustard greens (anatsonga), and spinach-like leaves (anamafaitra)
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional: Crushed red pepper for heat


  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the meat and brown on all sides. Remove from the pot and set aside.
  2. In the same pot, sauté onions until translucent. Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant.
  3. Return the meat to the pot along with tomatoes and enough water to cover everything.
  4. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and let it simmer until the meat is tender—this could take up to an hour depending on your choice of protein.
  5. Once the meat is cooked through, add your leafy greens and continue cooking just long enough for them to wilt but retain their color.
  6. Season with salt—and crushed red pepper if using—and serve hot over rice.

Variations of Romazava Across Madagascar

While the basic recipe for Romazava remains consistent across Madagascar, regional variations do exist. Some versions include other meats like pork or fish, while others might add extra vegetables such as carrots or potatoes.

In coastal areas where seafood is abundant, you might find shrimp or crab used instead of land-based proteins. Regardless of these differences, each version stays true to the dish’s essence—simple ingredients cooked with care to create a comforting meal.

Serving and Eating Etiquette for Romazava

Romazava is typically served over rice—a staple in Malagasy cuisine—and enjoyed as a main course. It’s common for families to gather around a communal pot and share the meal together—an embodiment of unity and camaraderie.

When eating Romazava, it’s customary to use your hands rather than utensils. This practice not only enhances the sensory experience but also fosters a deeper connection with the food and those sharing it with you.

Role of Romazava in Special Occasions

Romazava holds a special place in Malagasy celebrations and gatherings. It’s often prepared during holidays, weddings, birthdays, and even funerals—serving as both sustenance and symbol of community spirit.

The act of preparing Romazava together can be seen as an expression of love and respect towards guests. Its presence at significant events underscores its cultural importance beyond just being a delicious meal.

Influence of Foreign Cuisines on Romazava

Foreign influences have subtly shaped Romazava over time without overshadowing its traditional roots. For instance, Indian spices like turmeric were introduced through trade routes centuries ago and have since found their way into some versions of this dish.

Similarly, the French colonization of Madagascar brought new culinary techniques and ingredients—like the use of beef—which have been incorporated into Romazava. Despite these influences, the dish has retained its distinct Malagasy identity.

Personal Stories and Memories Associated with Romazava

Romazava is more than just a meal—it’s a vessel for memories and stories. Many Malagasy people recall learning to cook this dish from their parents or grandparents, inheriting not just a recipe but also a piece of family history.

Others remember gathering around a pot of Romazava during special occasions, sharing laughter and conversation over bowls of this comforting stew. These personal narratives add another layer to Romazava’s rich tapestry, making it an enduring symbol of Malagasy culture.

The Broader Cuisine of Madagascar

Madagascar’s cuisine reflects its diverse history and geography—it’s an intriguing blend of African, Asian, Arab, and European influences.

Staple Foods

Rice holds center stage in Malagasy meals—consumed at breakfast, lunch, and dinner in various forms. It’s often accompanied by ‘laoka’, side dishes made from vegetables or proteins cooked in sauce.

Popular Dishes

Beyond Romazava, Madagascar boasts a variety of dishes. ‘Akoho sy voanio’ is a popular chicken dish cooked with coconut milk. ‘Lasopy’ is a comforting vegetable soup made from pureed vegetables.

Street Food

Street food in Madagascar offers an array of quick bites. ‘Mofo gasy’, meaning Malagasy bread, is a sweet rice cake often enjoyed for breakfast. ‘Koba’, a peanut and banana wrapped in banana leaves and steamed, makes for a filling snack.


Given its extensive coastline, seafood plays a significant role in the island’s cuisine. Fresh fish, shrimp, crab, and even sea cucumber feature prominently on coastal menus.


Madagascar is renowned for its vanilla—often used in desserts like ‘vanilla custard’ or the rice-based ‘ranonapango’. Fruits like bananas, mangoes, and lychees also make frequent appearances in sweet treats.

In essence, Madagascar’s culinary landscape is as diverse as its ecosystem—offering flavors that are both familiar and exotic to the global palate.

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