So far this guide has focused on the overviews of the wildlife, cultures, and the best restaurants on offer in Africa, along with documentaries and films to educate you before you visit. But in this section, we take a look at the most popular African dishes, plus some rarities to wet your appetite.
A classic food combination from Ethiopia where there are no plates (like in most Ethiopian dishes). Instead, you literately eat the plate (called Injera) because it is part of the meal and made from cereal into a large pancake with the food placed on top! This African dish is very unique like much of Ethiopia’s culture. There are many variations but the tib’s version is very popular because of the huge variety of meats used on it.
African Dish: Sadza Nema Veggie ane Nyama, Zimbabwe
This African dish is interesting because it is split into two parts that complement each other. On one side you have ‘Sadza’ and a type of stew on the other side. Sadza or Sadza rechibage is like a thick porridge by uniquely African because the porridge is made from cornmeal or maize meal and water. So the name in Zimbabwean simply translates as Zimbabwean thick corn porridge with chicken or another type of meat for the stew.
Egusi is arguably Nigeria’s most popular dish and has become so popular you can actually find it in specialist African restaurants in other parts of the world now, including ‘western’ countries. The African dish essentially consists of ground melon seeds with leaf vegetables, bean vegetables, various seasonings, and whatever meat takes your fancy! It is often accompanied with dishes such as amala – or more commonly – pounded yam.
This one is a simple but rather curious South African dish, it is basically a mix of dumplings like you’d find in Europe, but mixed with offal, which is actually rarely eaten in Europe. Potatoes and carrots are then added to complete this unusual but popular South African dish.
This African dish is a real staple in Egypt and every family eats it at least once a week at home with their families. It is genuine Egyptian cuisine made from rice, lentils, macaroni, garlic and chickpeas, and with spicy tomato sauce and fried onion.
African Dish: Zanzibari Biryanis and Pilaus, Zanzibar
These Swahili dishes are ones you won’t want to miss, and both come highly praised by tourists and locals alike on Zanzibar. Both of these African dishes are rice-based but come with an array of spices such as cardamon, cumin, and pepper: Perhaps a testament to Zanzibar being known as a ‘spice island’ up until a couple of centuries ago. They are both served with seafood, meats, and vegetables such as cabbages, onion and tomato. Probably the best place to sample these dishes, if you are on Zanzibar, are in Stone Town, since it has a myriad of quality restaurants in which to try these popular and tasty African dishes.
This is more of an Ivorian snack food than a full-blown meal. It consists of fried plantain, with chili pepper, onions, and sometimes even egg and tomato sauce. This African dish is popular in the Ivory Coast but it’s become popular in the surrounding West African countries too. This is perhaps partly down to its easy preparation as much as its unique taste. You can pretty much eat Alloco at any time of day, for brunch, lunch or even dinner. It is easy to find as it is regarded as a fast food and thus widely available on the streets of Ivorian towns and cities from street vendors.
Many South Africans would say this would be the national dish of South Africa and is pronounced ba-boor-tea. It is essentially a mixture of curried meat and fruit with a creamy golden topping that is similar to moussaka, or perhaps akin to a curry lasagne (without the pasta sheet layers). Sometimes Bobotie simply consists of spiced mincemeat baked with an egg-based topping and served with sambal (a dish interestingly more often found in Malaysia these days). In fact, the history and origins of this dish are just as exciting as its flavours and ingredients: colonists and workers from the Dutch East India colonies in Batavia introduced Bobotie to South Africa. After this, the popularity of this African dish spread to the Cape of Good Hope and beyond, at which point the recipe was tweaked to include a mixture of mutton pork instead oֆ minced beef. A fascinating dish and a must-try if you are in South Africa!
Brik originated in Tunisia at first, but soon spread so now it is popular over most of northern Africa. It is a deep-fried pastry that comes in a variety of different forms, but one of the most popular is the egg stuffed Brik, that also comes with chopped onions, tuna fish, harissa and parsley that fits into the delicious pocket of pastry. Other varieties include ground meat and chicken, but also more exotic ingredients such as anchovies with capers and cheese. There is also an interesting cultural significance to the origins of this African dish in Tunisia that is quite charming: According to the Tunisian tradition, the bridegroom’s mother-in-law to be is expected to make Brik for the bride, and if the bride eats the Brik without spilling any of the egg yolks, he is then given permission to marry his bride!
Cholent actually has its roots in Jewish food; however, it is as popular now throughout most of Northern Africa as it is in Jewish communities. In Jewish communities, this dish is traditionally cooked slowly overnight on a Friday and eaten for lunch on the sabbath. This African dish is essentially a slow-cooked stew of meat, potatoes, beans, and barely; ingredients which are readily available in most of Northern Africa, which goes part way to explain its spread of popularity there. Rice may be used in place of barley, and chicken instead of the traditional beef. But an unusual variation is the Sephardi-style, where whole eggs in the shell are used which turn brown overnight. Ashkenazi Cholent often contains a sausage casing or more rarely the skin of a chicken neck stuffed with a flour-based mixture. This is certainly one of the most diverse and unusual African dishes in northern parts of the continent and thus one that has to be recommended if only for its unusual nature!