Laoka – the Side of Madagascar Unknown to North America

Have you eaten rice in Madagascar? Then there’s a probability that you have eaten Laoka. Laoka is a popular dish amongst the Malagasy people. Despite this, tourists who visit Madagascar have not fully explored the dish. Why? First, the dish presents unlimited possibilities because of its wide range of ingredients. Also, where rice is not a staple diet, like North America, people may never discover what Laoka presents.

What is Laoka? 

Laoka is various side dishes and accompaniments served with rice in Madagascar. Laoka dishes contain meat, spices, vegetables, and other foods from different plant sources. Most of the time, a sauce accompanies Laoka. A favorite spicy sauce in Madagascar is the Malagasy sakay. 

Want to make your own sakay sauce? Do it the Malagasy way with fresh ginger, garlic, and chili peppers.

This article covers in detail what Laoka is and what Laoka is made of. I have also explored several varieties of Laoka in Madagascar. How do you eat Laoka? Different kinds of Malagasy rice determine how you eat it. Read more on this and find out where you can eat the best Laoka in Madagascar.

What Is Laoka Made Of?

Laoka contains a combination of meats, vegetables, spices, and other foods, but it does not have a defined list of ingredients. It depends on people’s tastes and preferences. Also, the preparation of the rice influences the Laoka that goes with it. 

What should you expect for a Laoka dish? I have highlighted the most popular varieties of Laoka in Madagascar:

Malagasy Varieties of Laoka


Romazava is the Malagasy national dish. It is a stew that comprises meat and leafy greens. In the past, Romazava was made using zebu meat. The leafy vegetables included paracress, amamy, and mustard greens. With time, the Malagasy people have invented various ways of making Laoka. The stew now accommodates the food preferences of various people.

The meat used to make Romazava can be zebu, pork, chicken, or seafood. For the vegetables, you can also use spinach and arugula. As such, vegetarians can also enjoy a romazava stew made of greens.

The Malagasy sakay is prominent in romazava and other Malagasy dishes. It is a special sauce containing chili, garlic, and ginger.


How would you like to take rice with tender beef? Varenga is another popular variety of Laoka made with tender and crispy beef.

The beef boils in water together with onions and garlic until it is tender. To make it brown and crispy, it is shredded using two forks, one in each hand, then oven-baked for about 30 minutes.

Varenga is perfect with rice, but a serving of vegetables and a hot sauce like sakay takes it to the next level.

Akoho Sy Voanio 

By now, you realize that meat is a crucial ingredient in what Laoka is made of, right? Akoho Sy Voanio is another way of saying ‘chicken in coconut milk.’ This stew is rich in a variety of spices such as cayenne pepper, ginger, and garlic.

Also, the chicken needs to marinate in lemon juice, lemon rind, salt, and pepper before cooking. The result is flavor-ridden chicken in its own sauce. You can have Akoho Sy Voanio with dry rice and without any other accompaniments.

Lasary Voatabia

This is a tomato-onion salad. The salad works great as a side dish for Laoka or topping for sandwiches. However, lasary votabia can pass as Laoka for some rice dishes such as fried rice. This is because the rice contains multiple ingredients. Vegetarians can also use it as an alternative to meat-based Laoka.

Lasary Voatabia is a mix of chopped tomatoes, green onions, grated ginger, hot sauce, and salt to taste. Black pepper not only adds to the flavor but also provides a host of health benefits. According to Healthline, black pepper benefits your brains and lowers cholesterol levels, among other benefits.

If you like, you can garnish it with freshly chopped coriander and let it chill for about one hour before serving.


Kitoza consists of trips of dried or smoked beef or pork. The strips of meat roast over a charcoal burner until they become crisp without being burning. You can then eat the meat alongside wet rice accompanied by a vegetable salad. Other than eating Kitoza as Laoka, you can have it for breakfast or as an appetizer.

Rice Dishes Served With Laoka in Madagascar

Fried rice

Like I mentioned before, the type of rice influences the variety of Laoka that the rice is served with. For this reason, I have compiled a list of rice preparations that you will find in Madagascar.

Once you go through it, you will understand why certain Laoka and rice dishes go together.

Vary Sosoa (Wet/Juicy Rice)

Vary Sosoa needs water and rice in the ratio of 2:1. This gives the rice a tender and creamy consistency. With this dish, lower qualities of rice work better as they can get sticky with ease.

Tip: For Vary Sosa, you need Laoka that does not have sauce or juice. Go for grilled, fried, or smoked Laoka.

Vary Amin Anana (Rice with Leafy Greens)

If you want to avoid meat with your rice altogether, Vary Amin Anana is the way to eat Laoka. Unlike other Laoka dishes that you take as accompaniments to rice, this food contains rice in it.

The dish is a mix of rice, collard greens, and other leafy greens cooked with ginger, onions, and tomatoes. The ingredients simmer in water until they are tender and the water fully absorbed. In Madagascar, Vary Amin Anana is popular in winter and served for dinner.

Tip: Vary Amin Anana works with both stewy and dry Laoka. You may want to go for some meat since you already have rice and greens.

Vary Amin’ny Voanio (Coconut Rice)

This rice is coconut milk-flavored. To prepare it, the rice steams in equal measures of water and coconut milk. Other than the coconut milk flavor, Vary Amin’ny Voanio is similar to steamed rice.

You have a higher chance of eating coconut rice in coastal areas of Madagascar. Also, it is a treasured recipe for holidays and special occasions.

Holiday or no holiday, you can make coconut rice right at home. I recommend using lite coconut milk since it contains less fat and calories than regular coconut milk.

Tip: Vary Amin’ny Voanio blends well with stewy Laoka and sauces.

Vary Zoridira (Fried Rice/ Dirty Rice)

Multiple ingredients in this kind of rice give it the name dirty rice. Vary Zoridira contains anything from vegetables, meat, or seafood.

The ingredients are fried separately then mixed with the rice in the final stage. Vary Zoridira can also take a variety of colors, depending on the sauces added.

Tip: The ingredients in the Vary Zoridira determine the kind of Laoka that goes with it. For example, if there’s meat in the ingredients, a vegetable accompaniment like Rosari Voatabia would work great. 

Vary Maina (steamed rice)

This also goes by the name of dry rice. When cooked, its grains don’t stick together. Still, the rice should cook until it is tender. Steamed rice is one of the easiest and fastest rice dishes to cook.

Do you need inspiration? The video below takes you through the steps of making steamed rice.

You should not worry about the type of rice either. Some people prefer imported varieties of rice such as makalioka.

Tip: The best Laoka for dry rice should be a stew that comes with sauce.

Best Places to Eat Laoka in Madagascar

By now, we have established that the people of Madagascar and rice are inseparable. In fact, most of the Malagasy have no problem eating rice up to 3 times daily.

Since Laoka is part of a rice meal, you don’t have to try hard to land sumptuous Laoka anywhere in Madagascar. With a Madagascar Travel Guide, you can quickly identify the places where you can try the best Laoka dishes. So, what should you look for?

  • Local Homes- if you can interact with the locals, you will get the most authentic taste of Laoka. Further, the people of Madagascar are friendly and hospitable.
  • Restaurants and hotels- the quality and cost of Laoka in restaurants and hotels depend on their location and status. If you are on a tight budget, avoid tourist-themed areas, and head into the interior of the island.
  • Local Markets- if you want to make your own Laoka, hit the local markets for the freshest ingredients. Here, you will get a huge ready meal at a much lower price.

In Conclusion

Laoka is as important as rice in Malagasy cuisine. The good part is; there are so many varieties that you can try without getting bored. That said, you can have a different Laoka every time you have a meal. After all, as long as you are in Madagascar, you will have lots of rice.

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