Africa is a continent of tremendous diversity and breathtaking contrasts but what is innate and intrenched in her people, is the childhood memory of their mother’s favourite family meal that journeys with them all their life.
I am an extreme foodie and absolutely love exploring new cultures or dishes different to what I’m used to. I therefore searched the entire continent and wrapped up 10 of Africa’s most popular and mouthwatering favourites – I really hope you get to experience some of these dishes on your next trip with us.
From the humble maize/grain porridges and root vegetables that form the basis of so many diets, to grand, festive dishes such as breyanis, tagines, stews and aromatic curries, Africa’s favourite foods offer something for every palate.
This blog shares regional dishes that you might enjoy in some of the more popular tourist destinations.
1. Zimbabwe: Kapenta with sadza
A heap of crisp-fried kapenta is the culinary highlight for many visitors to Zimbabwe. Kapenta, comprising two species of small freshwater fish native to Lake Tanganyika, was introduced to Lake Kariba and is now a much-loved source of protein for the lakeside populations of Zambia and Zimbabwe. On a trip to the African borders, this was one of the first dishes I explored. Kapenta is often accompanied by a mountain of delicious maize porridge. This dish is available in both dried and fresh, also stewed with juicy tomatoes, onions and groundnut powder. Enjoy and relish it by scooping the different tastes into your hand.
2. Zanzibar: Zanzibari biryanis and pilaus
You can almost feel the warm breath of the trade winds in your face as you taste these great festive dishes. These are rice based dishes, deliciously fragranced with the exotic array of spices distinctive to Zanzibar.
There are many variations of biryani: some are made with vegetables and some have meat, chicken or seafood incorporated in them. The pilau is a one-pot wonder generously spiced with cardamom, cumin and pepper.
3. Mozambique: Grilled Piri piri chicken
From the heart of Maputo, Mozambique comes Galinha à Zambeziana, an incredibly delicious dish which boasts a blend of African, Portuguese, Oriental and Arabic flavours. This succulent chicken dish has heady aromas of hot piri piri and creamy coconut sauce, cashews and peanuts, with hints of lime, pepper and garlic. Known as a grilled chicken piri piri, it is traditionally served with matapa, a dish of cassava leaves cooked in a peanut sauce.
4. Nigeria: Jollof rice and egusi soup
Nigeria has too many delectable favourites which makes it extremely hard to select only one, but one dish you shouldn’t leave Nigeria without eating, is jollof rice. This is the mother of favourite foods across West Africa. A simple, spicy one-pot dish comprising at its most basic, rice, tomatoes, onions and pepper, many serve it at parties and other festive gatherings, along with other Nigerian favourites such as egusi soup (made with ground melon seeds and bitter leaf), fried plantains and pounded yam (iyan or fufu).
5. South Africa: Bunny chow
A blistering-hot and delicious curry in a hollowed out half-loaf of bread, the bunny chow is one of South Africa’s most treasured street foods – many believe that it originated in Durban with some sort of Indian heritage. You will get a bunny chow as a takeaway in all major cities in SA.
6. Malawi: Chambo with nsima
A national favourite dish that touches the heartstrings of Malawians away from home. This is the most popular and best-known fish found in Lake Malawi. It is served grilled along the lake shore, usually with nsima (a stiff porridge very similar to South Africa’s pap and Zimbabwe’s sadza) or with chips.
7. Namibia: Namibian venison
For Namibians, the very best gemsbok, kudu, zebra, warthog, ostrich and springbok are to be found at restaurants and game lodges across their country. Their cuisines show robust German and South African inspirations, with traditional German delicacies such as sausages and smoked meats.
8. Angola: Muamba de Galinha
Also known as chicken muamba, this is a flavoursome and spicy stew made by simmering chicken slowly in palm oil or palm butter, garlic, chillies and okra, until it’s meltingly tender. The dish has its roots in Portuguese culture and is considered one of Angola’s national food treasures.
9. South Africa: Cape Malay breyani
A cherished classic of Cape Malay cuisine, breyani is a fragrant dish which has layers of marinated meat or chicken, rice, lentils and spices topped with crisp-fried onions and hard-boiled eggs. Typically enjoyed with “slaai”, a salad made of onions, tomatoes, vinegar and coriander, this is an all time classic dish enjoyed by many.
10. South Africa: Pap en vleis/Shisa nyama
“Pap en vleis” (literally “maize porridge and meat”) is a colourful umbrella term used to express the combination of starch and braaied (barbequed) or stewed meat. In America and other parts of the world, this is known as barbecued meat and maize porridge. This is a lethal combination and beloved across many cultures in South Africa. Many South Africans refer tongue-in-cheek to braaivleis as a national sport which is irrevocably and intrinsically part of their heritage.