If you’ve eaten one dish, it’s likely to have been native jollof rice which is the most popular form of rice meal. A delicious, spicy and savoury meeting of scotch bonnets, fried onions and tomatoes all stirred in with stewed rice. Think of a spicy African take on the Spanish paella. A national dish claimed by both Ghana and Nigeria, jollof rice involves the base of many West African dishes, namely TPO (tomatoes, peppers, onions).
As one of the largest continents in the world however, food from the Western side of the Nation is arguably more meticulously prepared: offering a diversity of complex tastes, seasonings, and of course spice depending on region and historical tribe. West Africans love to cook, be it fried plantain, stewed goat meat, grilled fish or fried pof pof – a sweet deep fried doughy desert similar to Greek loukoumades. Common tastes are the spice of chilli, savoury flavour of vegetables and greens, sweetness of fruits and baked goods. Or, in very traditional dishes such as garri (fermented cassava) and ofe onugbu (bitter leaf soup) flavours can be on the sharper side.
Cassava is used in many dishes such as garri, fufu, eba and tapioca. Its name also varies from country to country, and depending on how it has been prepared. In Nigeria and Sierra Leone for example, it is grated, pressed, fermented and fried. In Central Africa however, it is more commonly boiled and mashed. Introduced to Africa in the 1500s, cassava is a key staple across the continent and a highly versatile ingredient.
Spicy and vibrant with rich textures, moorish flavours and a healthy base of fruit and veg, this cuisine has much to offer the appetites of health-conscious and adventurous gastronomers. Soon you’ll become familiar with food typical of this part of the world, such as banku balls (a Ghanaian delicacy made with fermented corn and cassava dough), kenkey (fermented maize dumplings), and shito (a tangy shrimp condiment, easily obtained in gentrified city districts).
Another reason for this culinary escalation is that certain foods, Nigerian tapas for example. are explicitly designed for sharing, fitting perfectly into the casual dining trend. Here, there is a strong cultural emphasis on sharing and talking about food, which bridges the gap between home cuisine and the restaurant scene, a trend as recognisable in restaurant menus as it is in crockery and interior decor.