African food – Myths and Facts

Jollof Rice
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African food is food which is indigenous to the African continent. These foods are typically starchy foods such as corn(maize), yam, manioc(cassava), vegetables such as okra and spinach cooked in different ways by the over 3000 different ethnic groups in Africa, African foods, stews and soups are generally very hot and spicy and are cooked with a variety of meats and fish.

African foods have been heavily influenced by western and Middle Eastern foods through the European colonialists and Middle East traders of the 19th and early 20th century.

Different parts of Africa have different methods of preparation and eating of their foods but a major similarity in the way most African foods are eaten is the use of the right hand to eat i.e. without eating utensils.

In Central Africa, Fufu made from cassava is the most popular food and is usually eaten with peanut (groundnut) soup. A rice porridge called Bambara spiced with peanut butter and sugar is also popular. As there is abundance of wildlife, wild animals such as monkeys, alligators, antelope, etc are usually hunted and used as meat.

East Africa has the largest population of wildlife in Africa hence game meat popularly called “bush meat” is a major part of East African cuisine. Some cultures in East Africa like the Masai in Kenya generally do not eat meat as animals are considered sacred. Most East African foods are made from maize, most popular among which is Ugali, a porridge made from maize, another popular East African dish is Matoke which is made from boiled green bananas or plantain.

The Horn of Africa which consists of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia have few indigenous foods made from starchy foods such as corn and barley. The most popular food in this region is Injera which is a flat spongy bread served with stews such as tsebhis and wat with different types of meat. Another popular dish is akelet which is wheat flour porridge filled with berbere spice, butter sauce, milk or yoghurt.

Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Mauritania, and Egypt make up North Africa and North African dishes are almost completely influenced by Arabian or Middle Eastern dishes. Olives and Olive oil are used extensively in food preparation and spices such as saffron, cinnamon and ginger are also used commonly to prepare meals. The most popular North African dish is Couscous which is a semolina pasta prepared and eaten in many different ways, another is Tagine which is a slow cooked stew. Lamb meat and goat meat are common and pork and alcohol are prohibited by Islamic law.

Southern Africa cuisine is representative of many different cultures such as African, European and Asian. The major foodstuffs used in South African dishes are milk, grains and tubers. Barbecued or roasted meats such as Biltong, Braai and Boerewors are a major part of South African cuisine. Fruits such as apples, grapes, peaches, bananas, etc are also quite common and well consumed. Popular South African foods include Potjiekos, an Afrikaner vegetable stew. Pap en vies – a maize porridge served with grilled meat. There are also many locally brewed beers.

West African dishes are mostly made with starchy food items such as maize, yams, millet, potatoes, etc and are generally very spicy, peppery and tasty. Rice dishes are also commonplace with the most popular West African dish been Jollof Rice. Palm oil is used extensively in the preparation of most West African foods. Popular West African dishes include Maafe; a Senegalese groundnut stew, Fufu; boiled and pounded cassava dough, Kenkey; corn dumpling wrapped in banana leaves, Garri; fried cassava pellets which can be eaten with water and sugar or made into a dough and eaten with any soup or stew, Suya; roasted meat spiced with pepper and peanut sauce.

The most popular food in Africa is Jollof Rice which is rice boiled in tomato stew with ingredients such as green peas, carrots, chilli pepper, onions and either beef, chicken or fish, it is usually served with coleslaw. It is eaten in several West African countries each with their own version, the most popular among which are Nigerian Jollof Rice and Ghanaian Jollof Rice. Other popular foods include Ethiopian stew, Portuguese beans stew and West African Peanut stew.

Africa is not a country and hence does not have a national dish, different countries have their own national dishes such as Ful Medames in Egypt, Ndole in Cameroon and Injera in Ethiopia and Eritrea, etc.

Are you from Africa or have you been to Africa before? Let’s have your views on this.