African cuisine is extensive and unique, with each region from the west to east, north to central having a specialty. Most of the dishes here comprise stews and curries, with meat, vegetables, and milk being some of the prime components in a majority of them. The list that follows gives a detailed guide of a few of the delectable dishes the continent has to offer.
Fufu, one of West and Central Africa’s famous foods, has a complex preparation process. It is made by pounding unripe plantains and cassava using a large wooden pole and then mashing the mixture while simultaneously adding water. Upon smoothening, they are rolled into small balls. Since fufu has a bland taste and a gummy texture, it is mostly teamed with light soup (made of fish or meat), palm nut soup, or groundnut soup for an added spiciness.
Muamba galinha, also known as moamba chicken or poulet moamba, is a savory platter having chicken as its main ingredients alongside palm butter and a host of spices like red pepper. Accompaniments that go along with it include rice, cassava paste, hard-boiled eggs, brown onions, sweet potatoes, and palm nut sauce.
Though most regions use chicken as the primary component, fish and duck often go as substitutes. A famous delicacy of Central Africa, moamba galinha is the Democratic Republic of Congo’s national dish.
Couscous in the Berber language means rolled or rounded, absolutely adhering to the presentation of this dish. It is prepared by mixing semolina flour with water, making them into tiny balls, and then pushing the pellets through the sieve. A vegetable or chicken broth or a mixture of both is poured on top to attain a thick consistency.
Traditionally they were made in couscoussier, a steamer pot with the broth placed in the bottom, and the pellets on top within a perforated basket. The dish has several variations, with some including seven kinds of vegetables and a few having meats like lambs as its main ingredient. There is also a dessert version seasoned with sugar and cinnamon alongside servings of butter. A staple food in most parts of North Africa, the dish is mainly served as a part of Friday lunch, where the entire family gets together for a sumptuous meal.
A one-pot dish with rice as the star ingredient, this platter is famous in several West African countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, and Senegal. Besides rice, several veggies, alongside onion, garlic, red pepper, and ginger, go into its preparation.
The red color, which is this dish’s trademark, is mostly achieved by adding the tomato puree. Stock cubes, dried thyme, curry powder, and many spices serve as seasonings to further enhance its taste. Chicken, fish, beef, or turkeys mostly go as sides to complement this lip-smacking dish.
Moin moin is a steamed pudding primarily made with beans, alongside red peppers, onions, chilies, and oil. This dish is Nigeria’s staple food though its popularity has spread elsewhere too. In Ghana, known as olele or alele, people eat moin moin with spicy millet porridge. This is not the main dish, but a side, often accompanying jollof rice or even fried plantains.
Cachupa has a smooth, buttery texture. The taste is an assortment of the different vegetable and meat varieties added to it. Cachupa Cachupa is a delicious stew prepared through slow cooking, made by adding corn, beans, vegetables like sweet potato, yam, plantain, and squash, alongside meat (chicken, goat, beef, and sausage) and fish. This inexpensive dish richly loaded with protein originated in West Africa’s Cape Verde islands regarded as a poor man’s food.
Of the two significant variations, one is cachupa rica prepared solely with meat, while the other being cachupa pobre having vegetables as its sole ingredient. Leftover cachupas are mostly refried and converted into a new breakfast dish like cachupa refogada, cachupa guisada, or cachupa frita served with fried sausage, mackerel, or egg. Cachupa has a smooth, buttery texture. The taste is an assortment of the different vegetable and meat varieties added to it.
One of the national dishes of Central Africa’s Cameroon ndole is a delicious stew mainly comprising boiled bitter leaves, melon seeds, and peanuts, besides fish or meat. Shrimps or prawns can even be added, though their inclusion is optional. Rich and creamy, each spoon of this flavorful broth would melt into your mouth in an instant. Mostly eaten during festivals or parties, people team it with rice, fried plantains, fufu, or bobolo (fermented cassava dish wrapped in leaves).
Senegal’s national food, yassa or chicken yassa is a mouthwatering stew prepared by marinating chicken in vinegar, onion, and lemon. A longer marination process would result in a soft texture. Besides the chicken, lamb or fish serve as alternate ingredients.
Traditionally yassa was served on beautifully decorated plates and accompanied with fluffy rice. Other accompaniments include fufu and couscous. One can even eat this fabulous platter as a snack alongside green tea or ginger beer.
Another addition to Africa’s list of spicy stews it is made by cooking chicken pieces, okra, tomato, eggplant, onion, garlic, thyme, chili pepper, ginger, and chicken broth together. The mixture was put inside a sealed canari or terra-cotta pot, placed over hot coals, and then slow-cooked by the traditional process. A person would also have to shake the pot at frequent intervals to prevent the mixture from being stuck. Another ancient preparation method was to cook the meat and veggies well, wrap them well with banana leaves and then place it on the coal or fire. It is mostly served with steaming rice and attieke (a cassava dish).
A tasty Nigerian dish, this soup is made with ogbono seeds alongside other ingredients like onion, red palm oil, seasoning cube, stock, leafy and non-leafy vegetables (like spinach, bitter leaf, okra, tomato) as well as meat or fish.
The ingredients are placed in an uncovered pot and simmered till the time they attain a soft texture. The overall taste varies from sweet to savory depending on all that has gone into its making. However, when not cooked well, or if the ogbono is stored for long, the soup may taste bitter or even soap-like.
It has a slimy texture, because of which it is often served with the lumpy fufu. Besides Africa, the soup has attained global recognition, usually sold in stores specializing in West African food.
Boer means farmer, and wors translates to sausage, meaning farmers’ sausage, typical of South Africa. This coil-shaped sausage is mostly grilled on the braai or barbecue and served with a hot sauce. It is even made into a hot dog when placed within a bun and garnished with tomato and onion.
The overall taste is a blend of spiciness, and saltiness, altering, or varying ingredients added to it. South Africa made its name to the Guinness Book of World Records in producing the world’s longest boerewors 1557.15 m.
Another popular addition to South Africa’s cuisine, chakalaka, is a spicy vegetable dish prepared with tomato, onion, carrot, bean, bell pepper, ginger, and chili.
This dish has its roots in Johannesburg, where it is considered a staple food. It is sometimes combined with other greens and eaten cold as a salad or even served with amasi (thick sour milk) and bread.
It is even a common addition to many South African barbecues, going as a delectable side. Besides the spiciness that dominates the dish, the taste alters according to the veggies and spices added.
One more star dish of South Africa, this dish has its roots in Durban found by the Indian community residing there. It comprises a half or quarter loaf bread filled with a bean, chicken, mutton, or egg curry.
Though the traditional bunny chow was purely vegetarian, the non-veg versions have also come up in the present times. Sausage, cheese, eggs, and chips even go as stuffing. It is mostly served with a carrot-chili-onion salad or even lemon, mango, or vegetable pickles.
This humongous snack is often shared by two, with the gravy soaking the bread walls being one of its common traits. Initially, they were wrapped in a newspaper and sold, replaced with bunny boxes at present. In this way, it stays warm and also lessens the chances of leakage of the curry.
This is a meat casserole made with lamb or ground beef or occasionally pork. Other ingredients include a whole lot of things like curry powder, spices, herbs, and vinegar. Some versions even add dried fruits like raisins, and apricots, while walnuts, bananas, and spicy chutney (sauce) go as garnishes. The icing on the cake is the baked egg sitting right on top.
The flavor is a complex one indeed, an assortment of everything, sweet, salty, and spicy. The egg custard also gives it a smooth, moist texture, with every bit of it melting into your mouth in an instant. A common item on most South African restaurants’ menu cards it is mostly served with yellow rice (rice mixed with turmeric).
Koshary or kosheri, a national dish of Egypt is a famous street food that originated in the middle half of the 19th century. This dish’s main ingredients include rice, lentils, and macaroni. A spicy tomato or chili-based sauce and wine vinegar go as toppings to enhance its flavor to the fullest. Fried onions and chickpeas mostly serve as garnishes.
Its name is a direct translation of khichdi, an Indian dish, also comprising lentils and rice. Though a poor man’s dish, it has made its way into plush restaurants at present.
Alloco is a fried plantain dish of West and East Africa, seasoned in garlic, parsley, tomato, onion, green pepper, and black pepper. It is mostly served with baked chicken, fried chicken, fried fish, or boiled eggs. The sweetness of plantains dominates, which would perfectly blend with the sauces’ spiciness, creating fire in your mouth.
Gatsby, a famous submarine sandwich of South Africa, comprises a bread roll stuffed with French fries and different sauces. Other ingredients that may even go in as stuffing include sausage, chicken, pickled or fried fish, and curries. Dressings of pickles or sauces on the fillings give them a spicy, tangy flavor.
This dish originated in South Africa’s Cape Town in 1976, created by chance when a shop owner filled a round bread loaf with chips, sausage, and pickle to offer to his workers renovating his shop.
It is a delicious Nigerian soup prepared with palm fruit, vegetables, beef, and fish, alongside chili pepper and salt seasonings. Traditionally it was eaten with fufu, though at present, one can team it with rice or flatbreads. The sweet-tart flavor of palm fruit combined with the meat’s richness would indeed make the soup immensely delicious to taste.
Shiro is another addition to the innumerable stews and soups Africa is famous for. Besides broad bean or chickpeas that go as the dish’s main ingredient, the addition of garlic, chopped tomatoes, ground ginger, chili pepper, and onions intensifies its flavor to the fullest. It often goes as toppings on injera or leavened flatbread or kitcha or unleavened flatbread. One of the several shiro types is the highly spicy tegabino shiro made by boiling legume, chickpeas, and water in a clay pot. Shiro is mostly eaten on festive and auspicious occasions like Ramadan and Lent.
Hoenderpastei is a tasty chicken pie made with a shortcrust pastry, filled with layers of vegetables, eggs, and hams. Baking the filled pastry at medium heat in an oven helps it attain a brown color and crispy flavor.
Chermoula, mostly used as a relish or marinade, is made with coriander, cumin, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and oil. Some chermoula versions also have additional ingredients like pickled lemons, saffron, chili pepper, black pepper, and onion. Mostly used as dips, for dressing salads, and to flavor fish, meat, or vegetable dishes, chermoula is prominently used in Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian, and Libyan cooking styles. The overall taste is a mix of everything from spicy to tart, earthy to aromatic, due to the various ingredients used in preparing it.
Suya originating in Nigeria is a meat dish made with skewered chicken, beef, or ram, marinated in peanut cake, vegetable oil, and various spices, and finally barbecued. It is served with spiced dried pepper and onion slices. Every bite of it would fill your mouth with the juiciness of meat alongside bouts of spiciness and tanginess.
Ugali, known by several names like nshima or ugali pap is a porridge made by cooking maize flour in milk or water until it stiffens like a dough. It is soft and fluffy with a bland taste, mostly eaten as a side with vegetable or meat curries and soups. It is eaten throughout Africa, having many local names, with fufu also being one of them. However, they are slightly different in terms of ingredients and preparation process.
A specialty dish of Egypt’s Alexandria city, kebda eskandarani is a fried beef liver platter, having spicy seasonings of cardamom, cumin, chili pepper, and garlic. It often goes as fillings for sandwiches or can even be eaten individually with pita bread or warm rice. It is also a common find in most shops and carts selling fast food.
An Ethiopian curry or stew wat has beef, lamb, or chicken as its main ingredients, besides several vegetables. The inclusion of spice mixtures like berbere and clarified butter takes its taste to another level. Traditionally wat is eaten with a spongy millet flatbread, injera. There are different types of wat like the doro wat made prepared with hard-boiled eggs and chicken famous in Ethiopia. Sanbat wat is popular among the Jews, mostly eaten as a Shabbat dish.
Shakshouka or chakchouka, a dish as unique as its name, is all about cooking poached eggs in a spicy tomato sauce. The other ingredients added as seasonings include onion, pepper, garlic, olive oil, paprika, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, and cumin. Its taste alters according to the sauces used in its presentation, from sweet to sour. The dish’s presentation varies from one region to the other. In Egypt, the eggs are not poached but scrambled and served as fillings in a sandwich. On the other hand, in Israel, feta cheese goes as toppings for shakshouka.
Peri-peri chicken, a lip-smacking chicken dish as its name suggests, has peri peri sauce as its primary ingredient. You can either use the whole chicken or include just certain parts like the leg, breast, or wings. To spice up this soft, juicy dish, smoked paprika, garlic powder, and red chilies, alongside other spices are added.
A traditional dish of Morocco, chicken tajine, is prepared by braising with onion, garlic, olives, preserved lemons, and several spices. Seasonings of pepper, salt, and lemon juice enhance its taste all the more. You could eat it as a main dish or even as a side with couscous.
Ful medames, Egypt’s staple food is a nutritious stew primarily made with fava beans, alongside garlic, onion, chopped parsley, lemon juice, several herbs and vegetables as well as spices. Besides Africa, this dish is also immensely popular in the Middle East and Arab. There are regional variations, like in Somalia, it is served for breakfast alongside bread and eggs.
Senegal’s national dish, thieboudienne, was prepared by cooking rice and fish in a single pot seasoned in tomato sauce. Other ingredients include carrots, cassava, onions, cabbage, lemon wedges, and peanut oil. Traditionally, it is eaten as a communal dish where friends or families gather around a large plate and eat it either with a spoon or a bread piece. It is a perfectly aromatic dish loaded with mixed flavors from spiciness to tartness, varying as per the ingredients included in it.
Besides the overall list of African food given here, each part of the continent, like South Africa, the Republic of Congo, Botswana, or Namibia, has a unique platter typical to particularly that part. Besides the sumptuous spread, do not miss out on the fantastic desserts like melktert and chebakia, as well as the refreshing beverages Africa has to offer.
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