A culinary journey through Africa

Africa is a continent that can arguably claim to have invented cooking. But African dishes are still woefully under-represented on the world culinary scene. Africa’s favorite foods offer something for every palate.

 

 
Piri piri chicken, Mozambique
Mozambique’s cuisine is a heady blend of African, Portuguese, oriental and Arab flavors -- think fragrant spices, hot piri piri and creamy coconut sauces, with hints of cashews and peanuts. The iconic Mozambican dish called “Galinha à Zambeziana” is a succulent feast of chicken cooked with lime, pepper, garlic, coconut milk and piri piri sauce. It’s generally known simply as grilled chicken piri piri by tourists, and is traditionally served with matapa, a dish of cassava leaves cooked in a peanut sauce.
 
Jollof rice and egusi soup, Nigeria
It’s not easy pinning down a national favorite dish for Nigeria, because this is a vast country with many distinct regional cuisines. But one dish you shouldn’t leave Nigeria without eating is jollof rice, a great favorite all over West Africa, and one that is thought may be the origin of the Cajun dish jambalaya. A simple, spicy one-pot dish comprising, at its most basic, rice, tomatoes, onions and pepper, it’s often served at parties and other festive gatherings, along with other Nigerian favorites such as egusi soup (made with ground melon seeds and bitter leaf), fried plantains and pounded yam (iyan or fufu).
 
Bunny chow, South Africa
No one’s quite sure how bunny chow came to be named, but what is certain is that this hollowed-out half- or quarter-loaf of white bread filled with a blistering-hot curry is one of South Africa’s most treasured street foods. The meat and vegetable curries that fill bunny chows were bought to South Africa by Indian indentured laborers who came to South Africa in the 19th century to work on the sugar-cane fields.
 
Kapenta with sadza, Zimbabwe
A heap of crisp-fried kapenta is the culinary highlight for many visitors to Zimbabwe. Kapenta, comprising two species of small freshwater fish native to Lake Tanganyika, were introduced to Lake Kariba and now are a much-loved source of protein for lakeside populations of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Like many African dishes, kapenta is often accompanied by a mountain of delicious maize porridge, known in Zimbabwe as “sadza.” 
 
Chambo with nsima, Malawi
The eyes of Malawians away from home may well fill with tears when you say the word “chambo” to them -- it’s the most popular and best-known fish found in Lake Malawi, and a great national favorite. It’s served grilled along the lake shore, usually with “nsima” (a stiff porridge very similar to South Africa’s pap and Zimbabwe’s sadza) or with chips. A plate of chambo is not complete without “ndiwo”, a delicious relish made of pumpkin or cassava leaves, tomatoes and groundnut powder. Both nsima and ndiwo are revered staple foods in neighboring Zambia, along with Ifisashi, a dish of greens in a peanut sauce.
 
Muamba de Galinha, Angola
This dish reveals the strong influence of Portuguese cuisine on this former colony, and is considered one of Angola’s national food treasures. Also known as “chicken muamba”, this is a spicy, somewhat oily stew made with with palm oil or palm butter, garlic, chilis and okra. Variations of chicken muamba, such as “poulet moambé”, are to be found all over the Congo River region, where it’s often served with cassava leaves and white rice.
 
Nyama na irio, Kenya
This well-loved dish, originally a Kikuyu staple that has spread through Kenya, is made of mashed-up potatoes, peas, beans, corn and onion and often served with spiced roasted meat. Kenya is famous for its long-distance runners, and many a Kenyan will attribute their stamina to the health-giving effects of another treasured staple, “sukuma wiki”. It is made with collard greens and/or kale cooked with onions and spices to make a piquant relish for ugali (maize porridge).
 
Fufu, Ghana
Every Ghanaian loves the favourite national dish – fufu. Fufu is simply yam that is mashed and pounded into a pulp and served with groundnut (peanut) soup and sometimes a little meat. It tastes a bit like mashed potato but is much heavier and more gloopy. It is eaten with the fingers of the right hand (never the left as this is considered impolite) and should be swallowed without chewing.


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