The African continent is blessed with different tribes and cultures and with these tribes comes different cuisines and dishes that has been the source of quality nutrition and health for the various African cultures for a long period of time.
Almost every African tribe has a special dish in which they are associated with. In Nigeria for instance, the Igbos are known for dishes such as “ofe Onumu” (Bitter leaf soup ) Ofe Oha, Abacha (cassava flakes) yam and a whole lot of others.
The Hausa tribe have “Tuwo” ET Al, the Yoruba have Amala, ewedu soup and a host of others. Egusi soup is also very popular amongst the various Nigerian tribes.
The point is that it is almost impossible to exhaust in this article the full list of every African tribe and their traditional delicacies . So I’ve made a succinct overview according to foodandwine.com of the post prominent dishes across the geo political Zones of the African continent.
The variety of people in this continent shows in African cuisine from the ingredients to the techniques.
The African continent is home to people form hundreds of different tribes, ethnic and social groups. No wonder all this variety shows in African cuisine all the way through the ingredient used to the preparation and cooking techniques.
The foods of Africa is a combination of local fruit, grains, vegetables, milk and meat products, their own traditions and Arab, European and Asian influences.
Eating habits differs across the African regions. Milk, curd and whey would make the bulk of the diet in some areas while in others milk cannot be produced due to diseases in cattle. Grains are staple food in the Eastern African diet, where they use cattle, sheep and goats as coin and rarely, if ever, eat their meat; while Central Africa residents not only eat beef and meat with gusto, when available, but hunt for other meats at the forest as well.
In North Africa, the food of the countries lined along the Mediterranean Sea is the most familiar to the Western between all African countries, probably because of the constant interaction with Mediterranean Europe.
Think Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt; one could say North African cuisine has its roots at the beginning of civilization. Couscous, main staple in North African diet, has become a familiar word for many and its popularity out of Africa grows by the day. Carthaginians introduced wheat and semolina. The Berbers, a Christian nomadic people, made semolina into couscous. Apart from couscous, count on olives and olive oil, known since before the Romans arrived, saffron, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and cloves, typical spices, incorporated by the Arabs, baking and sweet pastries, after Ottoman Turks, and some of the foods from the New World –tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes and chili peppers- define North African cuisine.
In East Africa, People in the inland savannah keep cattle, but cattle heads are regarded as a symbol of wealth, not as food; meat products are notoriously absent from their diet. Sometimes cattle’s milk or blood might be drink, but meat is consumed only on the very odd occasion.
The rest of Eastern Africans rely on grains and vegetables; you will find ugali –a starchy corn based paste similar to polenta- served with soups and stews everywhere. Matoke, a dish of steamed, green bananas, provide the filling base in many of the Ugandan meals.
Swahili cuisine shows Arab influences, particularly at the coast, in their use of saffron, cloves and cinnamon, or their preference for spiced steamed rice and pomegranate juice.
Oranges, lemon, limes, chili peppers, corn, tomatoes, pineapple, and pork meat were introduced by the Portuguese and Spanish, from their countries and colonies in Asia and America. They also pioneered the techniques for roasting and marinating meats, and the use of spices to flavor otherwise bland dishes.
Finally, one can find curries, lentil dishes, chapattis and pickles brought by British and Indian settlers.
Central Africa has remained true to its traditional food, as it did not have many external influences until the 19th century, not taking into account that peanuts, chili peppers, and cassava, their staple food, were introduced from the New World. Very likely those items were incorporated into the local cooking techniques.
Plantain and cassava are the main ingredients in the diet. A starchy paste made from fermented cassava roots accompanies sauces and grilled meats. Meat is hunted in the forest adding an exotic touch when crocodile, monkey, antelope and warthog make it occasionally to the menu instead of beef or chicken.
You could find yourself in front of a meal of peanut casserole with chicken, okra, chili and other spices, with stewed spinach and cassava greens on the side. Bambara, a sort of porridge made from rice, peanut butter and sugar, could be the dessert.
In West Africa, one cannot help but noticing it is loaded with starchy foods, very light on the meat side, and well dipped in fat. Fufu a semi-solid paste, not unlikely mashed potatoes or Italian polenta, but made from root vegetables like yams or cassava, will accompany soups and stews.
West Africans love hot spices -including chili peppers, probably the only Western World influence in West Africa cooking along peanuts, and other ingredients from the New World- and they can boast of having grains of paradise, or Guinea pepper, their own native hot seasoning. Cinnamon, cloves and mint were incorporated through trade with Arab countries.
Seafood is eaten often and it can be mixed liberally with meat, usually chicken. Goat meat is the dominant red meat, as beef and mutton are tough and not very appetizing in that area.
Water has a special significance, particularly in very dry areas, and it will be the first offered to a guest. Palm wine is other beverage enjoyed in West African nations. Made from the fermented sap from various palm trees, it can be sweet or sour, depending on how long was left to ferment.
Southern African cuisine is cultural Technicolor with so many influences mingled in their food. Put together local ingredients, including game meats like antelope and ostrich, European contributions from Portuguese, Dutch or British settlers, and add Malay or Indian spiciness; you get the idea.
Seafood is very much appreciated, as are vegetables and fruits –grapes, mangoes, papayas, bananas. Fresh fruit is very often the dessert of choice, puddings served on occasion.
The baobab is a tree native to Africa. Baobab leaves are used as vegetables – eaten both fresh, or dry and ground to powder. Baobab leaves are an ingredient of kuka soup in Nigeria. The fruit is an excellent source of vitamin C and calcium and it is referred as sour gourd or monkey’s bread – its dry pulp can be mixed with liquid to make porridge or coated in sugar and sold as a sweet and sour candy known as ubuyu
There are a whole lot of foods which are not mentioned here but they also make up the everyday chain of delicacies for various tribes along the African continent. But one thing they all almost have in common is their Naturalness and Nutritional benefits so if you are a lover of food and you haven’t been to Africa before, you might want to have that marked on your “To do” list.
You need to taste some of these wonderful delicious delicacies at least once in a lifetime, if not more.
Wheat meal and okro soup