African food is a term used to collectively refer to the types of food eaten in the different regions of the African continent. African cuisine is mostly characterized by the wide usage of locally available fruits, cereal grains, vegetables, milk and meat products. The traditional African diet in many part of the continent has a predominance of milk, curd and whey products.
Globally Popular African Food
African cuisine has gained popularity around the world. It has a considerable patronage in America, Europe, and South East Asia. Some of the most popular African foods that have gained global prominence are mieliepap, Tripe, Amadumbe, Amanqina, Mashonzha, Jollof Rice, West African Kebabs (Kyinkyinga), Chicken Sosaties, Egyptian Spice Mixture, Mwambe Beef and Spiced Butter. Fufu, Foutou, Banku, Kenkey, Couscous, and Gari are widely eaten and are served alongside soups and stews.
History and Cultural Influences
Before the advent of farming, the African hunters and gatherers mainly thrived on meat, fish, seafood and wild vegetables. Over the years, West African food has developed a unique pattern which is different from the rest of the world. History states that its strong culinary tradition has been deeply influenced by colonization, land-trade with the Arabs and also by the slave trade. However, traces of globalization can be found in African cuisine.
Classification of African Food
African Food can be broadly classified into six categories:
- Central Africa - Central African food refers to the type of food served in the central part of Africa which includes Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda. The commonly used ingredients in the Central African cuisine are the plantains and cassava. The Central African cuisine was not popular in the West, but lately it started to be more and more popular as immigrants bring their own recipes with them.
- East Africa -Eastern African food refers to the type of food served in the eastern part of Africa, which comprises the countries Tanzania, and Uganda, and (in a wider sense) also Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Sudan.
- Horn of Africa - Horn of Africa comprises of Eritrean and Ethiopian cuisine (especially in the northern half). Injera, Tsebhis and hilbet are some of the local favorite.
- North Africa - North Africa lies along the Mediterranean Sea and that include countries like Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia.
- Southern Africa - Southern African is sometimes referred as 'rainbow cuisine', as the food in this region is a concoction of the indigenous African tribal societies, European and Asian cultures.
- West Africa - West African food refers to the type of food served in the western part of Africa, which includes Ghana, Gambia, Nigeria, Togo, Mali, Sierra Leone, Benin, Senegal, Guinea, the Ivory Coast. Suya prepared with skewered beef, fish, chicken or pigeon is a specialty of this region. Palm wine prepared with fermented sap of various types of palm trees is a popular beverage of this region.
Commonly Used Ingredients and Cooking Methods
Bananas, barley, beans, cassava, coconut, curry, eggplant, garlic, ginger, groundnuts, lentils, millets, cassava, okra, onion, parsley, plantain, rice, Sorghum, spinach, tamarind, wheat, sweet potatoes and yams are some of the ingredients used in African recipes. The most common spices that are used in African food are cardamom, cloves, caraway, pepper, coriander, garam masala and black mustard seeds. African cuisine relies on locally available cereal, vegetables, dairy and meat products, venison and seafood. Generally, the African food is roasted, baked, boiled, fried or mashed and spiced.