Cuisine in Africa

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Due to the wide amount of influences the country has experienced over the course of the last two thousand years, Africa has some of the most diverse foodstuffs and some of the most varied cuisine and culinary techniques on the planet and sees the types of dishes split into five main categories including Central, East, North, West, South and the Horn of Africa.


Due to its isolated location between the Tibesti Mountains and the Congo River’s rainforest basin, Central Africa has remained almost completely free from all outside influences until the recent late 19th Century. The dishes typically consist of vegetables, beans and meat, typically chicken or beef. Dishes may include Fufu (dough made out of cassava, plantains or yams) and peanut soup, additionally; sometimes it is customary to eat more exotic meats such as warthog, antelope, monkey and even crocodile.



East Africa sees widespread variety based on where cuisine is tasted; in the savannah for instance, livestock is considered to be a form of currency and as such it is not considered normal to consume them for food, however, in many other places this may not be the case. Fruit and vegetable consumption is, again, very widespread and may include heavy use of maize and bananas especially. Additionally, influences from Arabian culture arrived during the 11th Century and with it brought forward spiced steam cooked rice and fruit juice. Meanwhile, Indian influences arrived a few centuries later and brought in vegetable curries and lentil soups, while European influences arrived around the same time and brought in new fruits such as oranges, limes, pineapples, tomatoes and lemons as well as new vegetables such as chillies and peppers as well as a new meat source: pork. Traditional dishes from East Africa, however, may include Ugali (maize flour cooked with water into porridge), Sukuma Wiki (vegetable stew) and Katogo (Starchy Bananas cooked with ground peanuts and beef).


Due to its close proximity to the Mediterranean, North Africa has seen a variety of influences from all over the world imported into the country and saw the Phoenicians of the 1st century bringing in sausages, the Carthaginians bringing in wheat, the Arabs bringing in spices, the Ottomans bringing in sweet pastries and Europe bringing in potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini and chillies. This wide range of influences has seen North African culture evolve tremendously in the past 2000 years and today dishes are varied even more greatly, dishes may include Tangia (meat stew prepared in an urn and cooked slowly overnight), Tajine (a baked omelette/quiche) and Couscous (wheat granules served with meat or vegetable stew).



West Africa sees a wider variety of traditional dishes with more emphasis on meat, spices and stronger flavours, although vegetables such as Black-Eyed Beans, Yams, Sweet Potatoes and Rice are also used strongly as well. Spices are varied greatly and may see usage of Guinea Pepper, Cinnamon, Cloves and Mint, mainly obtained through trades with the Arab world prior to the Middle Ages. Europeans appeared later on the scene and brought Chillies and Tomatoes into the mix. Today dishes may include Kenkey (boiled dough made out of maize), Suya (grilled spicy meat kebabs flavoured with peanuts) and Palm Wine (made from the fermented sap of palm trees).


Also known as ‘Rainbow Cuisine’ due to its large array of influences, South Africa has seen a greater amount of fusion between European and Ethnic African cuisine and culinary tastes due to the country’s European influences starting in the mid-17th Century. Dishes are often inspired by the hunter-gatherer culture of the tribes of South Africa such as the Bantu, the Khoi-Khoi and the San and may include Potjiekos (meat and vegetable stew), Amasi (sour milk), Frikkadelle (meatballs), Sosatie (grilled and marinated meat on a skewer) and  Vetkoek (deep-fried dough balls stuffed with meat). European and Asian influenced dishes include Samosa (fried pastry), Malva pudding (sponge pudding made from apricots) and Gatsby (a long roll filled with chicken, steak, chips and many other things).



The Horn of Africa sees food vary greatly from region to region and typically consists of Ethiopian, Eritrean, Somalian and Arabian cuisine. The latter appeared in the region when trades with the Arab region commenced around the 10th to the 11th Century and have seen a wide variety of spices imported into the country. It’s also important to mention that Ethiopian cuisine uses no pork or shellfish of any kind as either one or both are forbidden foods in the Islamic, Jewish and Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Faiths. Dishes may include Bariis (Rice), Halva (blocks of confectionary made from sugar, cornstarch, cardamom powder, nutmeg powder and ghee), Akelet (wheat-flour dough porridge), Wat (stew), Injera (sourdough flatbread made from teff flour) and Kitcha fit-fit (yoghurt topped with berebere spices).


If you’re looking for culinary delights and unique cuisine then Africa is the place to be whether you’re a veggy, a meaty, wheat-free, milk-free or a lover of all foodstuffs. SeekTeachers offers many positions all over this country and has positions in several of the countries today including in Egypt, Zambia, and Nigeria, why not take a look at SeekTeachers’ jobs page today?