African Cuisine 101
Talk has been rising within the online culinary school community about the growing interest in African cuisine, and with good reason. The food is delicious and uses exotic combinations of flavors and spices you can’t find anywhere else. It is also almost completely devoid of deep frying, preferring instead stew-type dishes of vegetables, spices, meat and some kind of starch. Each region in Africa has its own signature style of food and reflects the diversity of cultures of the world’s second-largest continent.
This region has its roots in the ancient civilizations of Egypt, and its cuisine has been relatively untouched by outside influences. The exceptions to this rule are the cassava root, peanuts and chili peppers, which were introduced to Central Africa during the slave trade in the 16th century. The cuisine relies heavily on native vegetables like spinach, tomatoes, okra, onions, garlic and ginger. Although meats are rare in this African region, restaurants outside of Africa that offer Central African cuisine prepares dishes with beef and chicken.
Horn of Africa
The countries of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Djbouti make up the northeastern border – the Horn – of Africa. The dishes from this area vary by region, but usually include stews, some kind of doughy starch and plenty of different kinds of legumes.
- Ethiopia and Eritrea – Two staples of Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine are tsebhis and injera, or stews and flatbread, respectively. The stews are usually prepared with beef, chicken or lamb and include a blend of regional spices and herbs
- Somalian – Because of its role as an international port of trade and commerce, Somalia is defined by its many influences that range from Persian to Italian. Although there are many differences among their culinary dishes, one common factor is that most of the food served is prepared according to Islamic law. This means that there are no pork dishes and the meat from the animals were prepared by Islamic law standards.
This region’s culinary history is influenced by ancient empires, merchants and traders. The ancient Carthaginians introduced local tribes to wheat, like the Phoenicians did with sausages centuries before. While wheat has evolved into a multi-cultural experience, one of the most popular dishes has remained the same for centuries: Couscous is a staple in North Africa and is made with steamed durum wheat. It is usually served with meat and vegetables, which are spooned over it.