Versatility of culinary traditions in different parts of Africa

Africa is a huge continent that includes countries with different geographic conditions: jungle, tropical swamps, deserts and plains. This determines the versatility of culinary traditions in different parts of the country. We can distinguish cuisines of Central Africa, East Africa, North Africa, Southern Africa and West Africa with different dishes and techniques used in each of them.

As the central part of the continent was not influenced by outside world, you can find many traditional cooking methods and choice of ingredients. Cassava and plantains are used mostly there.

1North Africa encompasses regions of Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Mauritania, Libya and Algeria washed by the Mediterranean Sea. People living there are from different backgrounds and use different culinary styles because of social, geographic, cultural and economic diversity. Still they were all under the influence of travelers and traders coming from the sea. Sea brought such staple foods as olives, sausages, wheat, semolina, widely used in couscous dish. The spices have been widely used since the 7th century.

Starchy ingredients are used in a typical West African meal. The staples include banku, fufu, couscous, kenkey, foutou and etc. Also, diverse spices and herbs are used in a cuisine. Fufu is prepared of starchy root vegetables, for instance, cassava, yams, and cocoyams. Additionally millet, sorghum and plantains can be used for it, which is a traditional Ghana dish. In spite of the external influence, traditional ingredients are deeply entrenched into the customs and culinary habits of the region.

As for the beverages, water is highly appreciated in Africa, especially, in dry areas where West African nations live. This is the first thing that is offered to the dear guest who came to your house. Palm wine (fermented sap of palm trees) and millet beer are common beverages as well. Hibiscus tea (karkade) is also consumed hot and cold in different regions of Africa. Alcohol is consumed only in non-Muslim states.

primaryImage_082715040603Cooking techniques and everyday staples are changing in West Africa. People used to eat, for instance, baobab leaf and locally grown greens. Baobab leaves (called kuka) are consumed in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Sahel (zone between the Sahara desert and Sudanian Savanna). Baobab leaves are used fresh and dried. Kuka soup is made of them. However, the diet becomes heavier with time and people start eating more meats and fats. Grilled meat is common: goat, mutton, fish and beef. Cassava, plantain, millet, sorghum, maize, yam, okra, rice etc. are popular staples of the region. The cuisines of Benin, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Nigeria, Niger, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Liberia, Mauritania, Mali are similar but can slightly differ because of geographic location. The coastal countries or regions with river consume more seafood and fish.

East African cuisine is a vast region and includes Burundian, Kenyan, Tanzanian, Ugandan, Maasai cuisines. Fish and meat are often combined in one dish. Fish can be dried and fermented. Flaked fish, for instance, is fried and cooked in a sauce with vegetables, spices and water. This is how excellent highly flavored stew is cooked.

Horn African cuisine includes Somalian, Eritrean, Ethiopian cuisines. Spicy stew is the most popular dish. Being geographically distant from the rest of Africa, Ethiopia is closer to the aboriginal style of cooking.

o-FRIED-PLANTAINS-facebookThe utensils are mainly not used in Ethio-Erithrean cuisine. Food is served on injera (large flatbread), so this dish is used to scoop up side dishes and entrees. You can see topped injera on the tray and spicy stews. Diners tear off pieces of injera and dip into the stew.

Local fruits and vegetables are also widely used. Plantains belong to the staple foods and are cooked all over the continent. They are steamed, boiled, baked, grilled and fried. Dried plantains are called aloco in the Ivory Coast, dodo in Benin, Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria. Ghanaian snack dish of fried plantains is called Kelewele.


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This article was written on 02 Feb 2016.

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