My Swahili dictionary tells me that Maandazi means "confectionary," but they really resemble donuts or Italian zeppole. They are fried balls of dough which are then eaten plain or doused in sugar.
They are sold on the streets in Tanzania every morning. There are probably as many variations as women in East Africa. I have heard of coconut versions and you can use a variety of spices or leave them plain. Some people make the dough with yeast and some are are a more simple egg and flour mix. I have included two recipes here.
For a time we ate these about once a week, but when I returned to work I found that they were a bit too time consuming to fit in. We try to have them on special occasions now. Bring your appetite because they do not keep well.
8 oz flour
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon easy blend yeast
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or mix of ground cardamom and cinnamon
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 oz warm water
oil for frying
Mix all dry ingredients well and add wet ingredients until dough forms. Knead well. Place in a bowl and let rise for an hour. Knead out briefly and cut into 8 pieces. They can be balls, squares or diamonds. Squash them a bit with your hand. Let rise again for 30 minutes. Fry in deep or shallow oil based on your preference. The oil should be hot and bubbling, but not spitting. They are ready when they are as brown as an onion skin.
I actually pop everything in the breadmaker and set it to dough. Then take out the dough, knead, divide, let rise and fry as above. The beauty of this is that since you need to let it rise for an hour, you can set the breadmaker to do all of the work while you are still in bed. Then get up, roll out 8 balls, and let them rise as I make chai and fruit salad.
This recipe is taken from the book, "Best of Regional African Cooking," by Harva Hachten
Makes 2 dozen
1 cup flour
1 1/4 teaspoons powder
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 cup water
Sift flour and powder together. Add sugar and salt. Stir in egg and water to form dough. You can add more water if you need to. Knead dough until smooth and let rise for 30 minutes covered by a towel. Cut into squares. Fry in shallow or deep oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with sugar if desired.
If you choose to fry in deep oil you can save the oil and use it 3 times. I always use an empty oil bottle and label it. My house rule is that if it is used for fish then it needs to be discarded. We don't deep fry anything besides maandazi in our house, but just occasionally someone will come along and do this. And maandazi fried in fish oil is not very nice for breakfast.