Filled with exotic spices, vegetables and protein, a feast of West African cuisine should be an option the next time you want to treat yourself or your family. But how much do you really know about this style of cooking? Read on as we share some yummy information about this vibrant cuisine.
Roots, origins and traditions
The term West African cuisine refers to a style of cooking that is commonly used in more than 16 countries in that part of the continent. It’s generally characterised by an abundance of western influences that is apparent in most of the dishes. West Africa was a hub in the slave trade during the 1700s. As a result, traders who visited the region brought spices and ingredients from their homelands. As the locals were exposed to these ingredients they began to assimilate them into their own traditional dishes. Before long, this unique style of cooking was recognised as a cuisine unto itself. Now, you can sample delectable dishes from West Africa in virtually any corner of the globe. It’s commonly believed that the spices and tomatoes that are characteristic of West African cuisine were brought to the African continent by Portuguese traders. However, other elements evidently originated in other European countries. For instance, many different aspects of the style of cooking and the flavours used in the dishes clearly stem from France and Italy.
The flavours of this cuisine
Those of you who are interested in West African cuisine can expect an abundance of robust flavours brought to you via tender meat and vegetables. Chefs who practice the West African style typically use large amounts of spices like chillies, ginger, coriander and thyme. Although most spices are used sparingly, there are no holds barred when it comes to the use of chillies. West Africans prefer the Scotch Bonnet chilli pepper above all others. These intense peppers are used to spice up fairly bland ingredients like potatoes and rice. This is particularly clear in the recipe for Jollof, where plain white rice is cooked in a tomato and chilli sauce to create a mind-blowing side dish. Popular vegetables in this region include pumpkin, squashes, okra, eggplant, leafy green vegetables and black-eyed peas. However, the real focus should be on the proteins used in this cuisine. Get ready to tuck into beef, goat and seafood when you treat yourself to a West African meal.
How to enjoy these dishes
There are a number of different drinks that pair well with this type of cuisine. If you would like to keep things as authentic as possible, sip a glass of palm wine with your meal. Alternatively, you could order a cold beer to help you wash down the spicy food.
Sourcing this type of cuisine
Sadly, restaurants offering West African cuisine are few and far between. Luckily, you can head over to the grocery store and stock up on all the ingredients you need to whip up a sumptuous meal at home.