It's food month here at OkayAfrica and that means that we'll be exploring different African delicacies, sharing recipes, highlighting the best spots for African cuisine, and dropping quick food videos throughout the month of November, so get your taste buds ready.
No singular cuisine defines any country or region. Culinary scenes are comprised of a mix of influences from indigenous groups, European colonizers as well as ancient trade routes in which we came in contact with Arabic and Indian nomads. There are multiple religious, cultural, historical and topographical factors at play.
Food transcends borders but flavor, my friends, flavor, reigns supreme. Our flavors are complex, bitter, spicy and at times sour but more often than not, they call to mind home.
Africans far and wide are consistently brought together by one thing, FOOD! The quintessential way to enjoy a meal is to do so surrounded by friends and family. With Thanksgiving around the corner, it's only right we put together a list of essential foods you'll find at an African party. Few are the gatherings that don't offer these options.
Please, don't read this on an empty stomach.
Our diets are heavy in meat. Seriously—ask an African vegetarian to tell you the story of when they revealed they were cutting meat from their diets to their parents and listen carefully to how the experience went. Cue the resounding, "How can you be a vegetarian and an African? That is unnatural."
We roast it, we grill it, we pepper it, and we stuff it in pie. Meat isn't just served alone; It's a way to enhance stew or accompany everything else we place in our meals.
Chicken is eaten everywhere. Goat meat is a prevalent red meat and we love our kebabs from spicy suya to brochettes to shoukouya to tankora.
South Africans, Zimbabweans and Namibians enjoy strips of dried and spiced meat called biltong and boerewors or thick sausage. Both are notorious for being great cures to hangovers!
Cabidela is an Angola dish comprised of rabbit and poultry. The Horn of Africa's tibs are a cross between stir fry and stew made with just about any meat you can get your hands on. Moroccan b'Stilla or poultry pie, typically made with pigeon, is legendary and a starter at most festive occasions. Kofta is South Sudanese soul food comprised of meatballs in tomato sauce.
As you would imagine, fish is plentiful along coasts. Our fish is dried, smoked, seasoned to perfection, and can be prepared in even more creative ways. West Africans enjoy poisson braisé and they've even made a song about tilapia.
Angolans live for their fish soup or caldeirada de peixe and calulu, dried fish with vegetables.
You need this bite-sized snack at a special event. West Africans enjoy beignets, bofrot, gbofloto, gnonmi, kala or puff puff.
South Africans have dubbed it vetkoek or fat cake. The people of Mozambique stuff their chamussas with beef. Ethiopians eat sambusas. Mandazi is the swahili coconut doughnut. It really is the perfect little warm and comforting sweet!
They came to us from Asia by way of bartering and colonization and our lives were forever changed!
Whether you refer to them as kelewele, dodo, boli, allocco, banana-pão, or makemba, you understand that joy is ripping open a pack of these chips or the way you feel when the smell of fried plantains grazes your nose and you anticipate them in your belly.
The life of an African can not be sweet without rice. Don't debate us. Whether yellow, fried or mixed with tomato purée (You see what we did there?) it is the perfect accompaniment to any meal.
Nigerians and Ghanaians will be battling out who has the best jollof rice until the end of time. The Senegalese will stand by as the originators and other West African nations will simply indulge. Senegalese fish and rice or thiéboudienne is a national dish. Burkinabés eat babende, a mix of spinach and rice with fermented locust beans. Arabic Al Kabsa, rice and chicken, has made it's way to many nations. A Swahili coast specialty is Pilau.
Attiéké is a traditional couscous made from ground cassava roots and dubbed one of Ivory Coast's prized possessions.
Couscous, steamed balls of semolina, is pivotal to a Maghrebi home. Coucous, Foofoo, Fufu, Foufou is also cassava or semolina pounded until it has a dough-like consistency. Some of our fondest memories are watching the women in our families perform this exact task.
We love our veggies—when seasoned correctly with a wide array of spices. Tomatoes, onions and chili peppers enrich many dishes.
South Africans chow down on Chakalaka, a simple, spicy dish of onions, tomatoes and often beans. Ethiopians enjoy gomen or collard greens. Kenyan Mukimo is a Kikuyu tribe staple of mashed potatoes and vegetables. Another notable East African salad dish comprised of fresh tomatoes and onions is Kachumbari. Koki is made from cowpeas and a notable Cameroonian dish as is Ndolé, whose main components are stewed nuts and spinach. Nigerians are more inclined to place okra or egusi in their mélanges.
Sauce or Stew
This is very necessary. No ketchup, just sauce!
Ethiopians and Eritreans pair their injera or bread with wat of all kinds. North Africans are satisfied by tanjines. Runtown has informed us if you are Ghanaian, he hopes your love is a sweet as shito.
As you prepare to celebrate the holidays and enjoy the many, many, many meals that will be placed before you, remember:
"Don't take another mouthful before you have swallowed what is in your mouth." -African Proverb
Audrey Lang is an alumna of Northeastern University and a Boston-based site merchandiser. A surveyor of life who's enamored with all things fashion, art and Africa, keep up with her on Instagram and Tumblr.