Africa is known for many things. Thousands of tourists flood the continent yearly because of the cultural diversity, climate, and natural wonders. One thing we believe draws people’s attention to the continent is what they eat.
African cuisine is as diverse as its culture. Most of the food requires great attention to detail. Whether you find yourself in the desert lands of Northern Africa or the Sahel plains in the West, every region presents a delicacy that surpasses your expectations.
In this article, we will outline some of the most popular African dishes, and where they are from:
Jollof Rice – Nigeria
Jollof rice is a meal popular in Western Africa. A fierce rivalry exists between Ghana and Nigeria on whose jollof rice is better as each claims to own the more delicious variety. Jollof is rice prepared in tomato sauce with a protein of your choice. The spices that go into making the tomato paste are what give it the burst of flavor that Nigerians can’t seem to get over.
Fried chicken is the most common accompaniment of jollof rice alongside a creamy salad and a chilled drink. Fried beef, goat meat, turkey, and fish are also other options that can accompany your jollof rice.
Kapenta with Sadza – Zimbabwe
Many people who visit Zimbabwe fall in love with the crisp-fried goodness that is kapenta. Kapenta is a dish prepared with two species of freshwater fish found in Lake Tanganyika and Lake Zambia. This dish is usually presented with a steaming hot bowl of sadza, also known as pap in other African countries. Kapenta can be prepared either fresh or dried.
Koki – Cameroon
If you ever find yourself within Central Africa, specifically Cameroon, we will advise you to look for this delightful appetizer. We don’t think a visit to Cameroon is worth the trouble if you pass up an opportunity to taste koki.
Koki is primarily made from cowpeas. The cowpeas are mashed and steamed in banana leaves for flavour. Its color is derived from the palm oil it is made with and it is often made with other condiments such as crayfish, pieces of fish, and chilli peppers.
Some may consider this a close cousin to the Nigerian moi-moi. A dish made with black-eyed peas with a similar preparation process to koki. It can be eaten alone or served as a side dish with rice.
Beyenatu – Ethiopia
Ethiopian restaurants are scattered across Africa and even around the world. Their cuisine has gained popularity for its use of spices and injera. Ijera is a bread used in eating stews and sauces. Beyenatu is a vegetarian dish made with a variety of vegetables and lentils. Not surprisingly, it is served with injera and it is enjoyed most when shared.
Plasa – Gambia
Plasa is a stew commonly eaten in Sierra Leone and Gambia. The dish is prepared with a variety of green leaves. Leaves used for Plasa are cooked in oil (usually palm oil, or other oils) and spiced with chili peppers, onions, meat, and fish. The most common way to eat Plasa is with plain boiled rice.
Fricasse – Tunisia
The fricasse is a sandwich, it’s easy to tell from the appearance of the meal what it is. The flavor packed sandwich is common in Tunisia and it is rich in calories. The sandwich’s base is made from eggs, olives, corpers, hummus, boiled potatoes, and more. It can easily be made at home but the fricasse can be easily gotten in any local fast food restaurant.
Rechta – Algeria
Let’s take you on a trip to Algeria with this dish consisting of noodles and chicken sauce. The noodles used for Rechta are made from flour, salt, water, and ghee. Its sauce is a blend of onions, garlic, chickpeas, cinnamon, potatoes, and more. Not to mention chicken pieces are also added to the sauce for more flavor. Retchta is most popular during festive events such as weddings, Ashura, and Eid al Fitr.
Maafe – Mali
This traditional stew (soup) is enjoyed across different regions in West and Central Africa. However, its origin is traced to the Bambara people of Mali. Maafe has many versions, each one common to a specific tribe.
Regardless of how it is made, maafe is made from roasted peanut flour. Other ingredients used in making the sauce include tomato paste, fish or meat, vegetables, and spices such as garlic, ginger, turmeric, and coriander. Variations only differ in consistency and sometimes texture.
The side dishes served with it are heavily influenced by the region where it is prepared. It could be served with anything from rice, sweet potatoes, or fufu.
Bazin – Libya
The popular Libyan dish known as Bazin is simply unleavened bread. The preparation process is simple. Some barley flour is boiled with salt and beaten with a stick until it forms the dough that is baked/ steamed to form bazin.
Bazin is traditionally eaten and shared using the right hand. The bread is eaten with stew, mutton, boiled eggs, or potatoes.
Yassa Poulet – Senegal
This dish originated from Senegal but over time it has gained popularity across West Africa. Assa is a spicy sauce prepared with either marinated fish or poultry. Other ingredients used in preparing Yassa are lemon and mustard. This is common to more specific regions in Senegal. Lamb is another meat used in preparing Yassa.
Pap en Vleis – South Africa
Pap and vleis is a food combination dearly loved by South Africans. It is safe to say it has got them on “chokehold”. The term literally translates to maize porridge and meat. It is an umbrella term for any combination of pap and stewed or roasted meat with a side dish of spicy gravy or relish.
Chambo is a fish found in Lake Malawi ( also called Lake Nyasa). Chambo belongs to the Tilapia family making it easy to find and prepare. The major ingredients used in preparing chambo is curry and fruit chutney.
After the fish is fried and cooked in the gravy mix leaving an outstanding flavor that can’t be forgotten easily.
Koshari (or koushari/ koshary) is a dish that introduces us to the cuisine of the average Egyptian family. The dish is a vegetarian one made with rice, lentils, garlic, chickpeas, tomatoes, and fried onions. Prepared koshari sends any Egyptian into a frenzy to have some. It’s no wonder it can be found easily on the streets of Egypt as popular street food.
Pastilla- au Pigeon- Morocco
Moroccan dishes have earned a lot of prestige in the culinary space very the last few decades. However, tangines and couscous dishes take the lead. The pastilla au pigeon also called b’stila is a dish that is complex and multifaceted. It is often presented at feasts.
The dish bursts with different flavors (sweet and savory). B’stilla is a pie prepared with shredded squab (or chicken, when squabs are difficult to come by) thickened with egg sauce. Not only that, the dish is accompanied by pastries, and layers of nutty or spicy filling.
As we mentioned earlier, the dish is presented at feasts, hence no grad celebration is complete without pastilla au pigeon on the menu.
Piri Piri Chicken- Mozambique
Tourists in Mozambique refer to the dish as grilled chicken piri piri. Traditionally it is served with matapa- cassava leaves cooked in peanut sauce. The cuisine in Mozambique is a mix of Portuguese, Arab, and Oriental cultures.
Nyama na Irio – Kenya
Everyone has that one dish they consider “comfort food”. If you ever find yourself on the streets of Kenya ask the average Kenyan what their comfort food is and expect them to say Irio with zest.
Originally a Kikuyu staple, Nyama na irio has spread its tentacle across Kenya and created a spot for itself in the hearts of many Kenyans. The dish is made with potatoes, peas, corn, beans, and onions. It is usually served with well-spiced roasted meat.
Seswaa is a traditional meat dish in Botswana. The dish also known as leswao is primarily made from goat and beef. Locals prefer to use the legs, necks, and backs of these animals to prepare the meal. Leswao is mostly presented at ceremonies such as weddings, funerals, and national events. Most times it is served with pap (porridge made from maize)
We’ve come to the end of our trip around Africa exploring some of the continent’s most popular and tasty dishes. We hope this post has opened your eyes to the endless opportunities for delicious food waiting to be tasted in African countries.