In my home country, there is a proverb, “Ukama igasva honozadziswa nokudya.” This proverb demonstrates the unifying power that food possesses.
It literally means that to strengthen any human relationship, parties involved need to share a meal together. Marcel Proust, a famous French novelist once said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes and tasting with a new tongue.”
The African continent is full of diversity and when it comes to food, this diversity is influenced by different cooking techniques, method of preparation and choice of ingredients.
Foreign visitors heavily influenced North Africa’s dishes. Around the first century, Phoenicians brought sausages to North Africa and to this day, sausage is a huge part of North African dishes.
Carthaginians followed the Phoenicians and introduced wheat, which has become the staple food for most countries in North Africa. Around the 7th century onwards, Arabs began to trickle in with various spices and tomato varieties that continue to dominate the ingredients list of North African dishes.
East African dishes evidently show the influence of Arab traders. Rice and spices are the two common foods one will find in East Africa. Arab traders who first explored the region in the 8th century introduced these in East Africa.
Traders from China then followed introducing domestic pigs, oranges, and lemons. Many years later, the British also came and introduced high-quality coffee, goats, cattle, and sheep.
Africa’s central region and the Horn of Africa cuisine is mostly influenced by Islam. Maize porridge (a stiff dough made from maize flour and water) and stew is the common dish in this part of Africa. However, not that it’s only beef stew as Muslims do not eat pork.
Cuisine in Southern Africa is the most diverse. This is because of the influence of the Arabs, Portuguese, Boers, the British, as well as the indigenous recipes.
Arabs brought spices to coastal regions such as Zanzibar and Mozambique, the Portuguese introduced chili seasoning, Boers came with new breeds of goats, sheep, and cattle, the British introduced curing techniques that brought about the famous biltong meat.
Among the hundreds of African dishes available, we have come up with these 10. These are the top 10 dishes enjoyed by many on the continent. It has also proved equally popular among foreigners.
Nyama Na irio- Kenya
This is Kenya’s most popular dish. Nyama Na irio is well loved around the African continent. The dish is very nutritious, the ingredients are mashed up potatoes, onion, corn, and beans. It’s often served with grilled meat.
Another dish originating from Kenya that has many admirers is Sukuma wiki. Sukuma wiki is made from collard greens mixed with spices and onions and used as a relish for ugali (maize porridge).
In a nation, which has provided many long distance runners over the years, many attribute the nutritious nyama Na irio and Sukuma wiki dishes as the reason behind the success of Kenya’s athletes.
Koshari is Egypt’s main dish. Koshari is a vegetarian dish prepared using rice, macaroni, lentils, chickpeas, and garlic. Koshari can be spiced either with a spicy tomato sauce or with a fried onion depending on one’s preference.
Other popular dishes in Egypt include mahshi, a dish prepared using zucchini ( a type of vegetable), vine leaves stuffed with rice, tomatoes and pepper and ful medames, a dish prepared using fava beans mixed with spices and olive oil. Ful medames is often served with pita bread.
Potjiekos- South Africa
Potjiekos loosely translated as pot food refers to meat cooked in a three-legged pot. The most popular potjiekos dish is the smileys (sheep head). The smiley is slow-simmered for a whole day until the head becomes soft and the soup too thick. Other potjiekos dishes include beef shank, goat head, and chicken feet.
A potjiekos dish is served with any of the following pot-baked bread (pot brood), steamed bread (ujeqe), dumplings (amadombolo), wild greens (morogo), samp (umngqusho), and maize porridge (pap).
Pastilla au Pigeon- Morocco
The Pastilla au Pigeon is a Moroccan dish mostly reserved for feasts and special occasions, as it is labor intensive. However, it remains one of Africa’s most celebrated dish.
The Pastilla au Pigeon is a pie that is delicate, substantial, sweet, and savory. It’s prepared using a shredded cooked squab (pigeon meat mostly but chicken can also be used) thickened with egg sauce and sprinkled with a spicy filling, layers of nutty and paper-thin pastry.
Muamba de Galinha- Angola
The Muamba de Galinha dish shows the strong influence of Portuguese cuisine in Angola. The Muamba de Galinha is an oily and spicy chicken stew dish prepared using palm butter or palm oil, okra, chilies, and garlic. The dish is served with white rice and cassava leaves. The dish can also be served with maize porridge.
The Namibian venison is influenced by traditional German delicacies such as Eisbein, sauerkraut, cured meats, and sausages. Namibian venison is tasty cured meat from game animals. Game meat used in preparing Namibian venison comes from the springbok, ostrich, zebra, kudu, warthog, and gemsbok.
Namibian venison can be served with oshifima (maize porridge) or mahangu (pearl millet porridge). One can also enjoy the tasty venison with a beer.
Chambo with nsima- Malawi
Chambo is a fish popular in Malawi and used in preparing the chambo with nsima dish that is very popular in Malawi. The ‘chambo’ is grilled and spiced per one’s preferences, spicy or sweet. Chambo is then served with nsima (maize porridge). The chambo with nsima dish often times is also served with a delicious relish of cassava or pumpkin leaves, groundnut powder, and tomatoes.
Pap en Vleis- South Africa
Pap en Vleis or shisa nyama refers to barbequed meat that is served with pap (maize porridge). The meat can be anything from boerewors, kebabs, chicken, steak, and pork chops. Pap en vleis is also great when out and about. There are many pap en vleis competitions held around South Africa from time to time.
Shisa nyama often come with side serving which can include chakalaka relish or spicy gravy.
Mopane worms with sadza- Zimbabwe
Mopane worms are delicious worms harvested during the summer in Zimbabwe. They provide a delicious dish that can be served with sadza (maize porridge). Mopane worms provide proteins to the Zimbabwean population and neighboring Zambia and South Africa.
Mopane worms are first dried and then stewed with tomatoes and onions or fried on their own. They taste much better if spicy.
Jollof rice and egusi soup- Nigeria
Originating from Nigeria, this dish has spread to every corner of the African continent. Jollof rice is prepared with white rice, pepper, onions, and tomatoes. It is often served with egusi soup that is made of bitter leaf and ground melon seeds.
Another popular dish originating from Nigeria is fufu made from pounded yam and fried plantains.