I Central African Cuisine Facts and History
Central Africa is considered to be the territory between the northern Tibetsi Mountains and the southern Congo River, together with its rainforest basin and includes countries: Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, and Rwanda. In comparison to other parts of Africa, this region was not too influenced by foreign cuisine, until the late 19th century. So we can say that here you may find one of the most authentic cuisine of Africa.
Of course, there were some exceptions as well, because the chili peppers, peanuts and cassava were imported back in the 16th century, becoming significant ingredients in this cuisine. But even so, most of the Central African cuisine is still mainly traditional, sticking to the old recipes and means of preparing food. Still, traditional does not mean a poor cuisine, because the diversity of dishes is quite staggering, food here being prepared in so many ways and using a wide variety of ingredients.
Most dishes contain starchy foods, like cassava, plantains, or fufu, which is a dish with the consistency of soft dough, usually made out of fermented cassava roots, all consumed instead of bread and accompanied by a variety of side dishes. These side dishes can be made out of grilled meats and sauces, or stews, mainly made out of vegetable ingredients. Chicken and beef are among the most preferred types of meat, although the Central African cuisine will also include crocodile, monkey, warthog, or antelope, served as occasional game meat.
II Central African Cuisine Menu
If you are visiting Central Africa, you should know that for breakfast, you will eat things that are somewhat familiar. Eggs, fried or omelet, flat bread, sausages, juice, tea, porridges mainly made out of maize, fruits, and even meat, are part of the Central African breakfast. An example would be the one served in Ecuatorial Guinea, where bananas and coconut are plentiful. The bananas are cooked in citrus juices, butter, coconut and sugar, resulting a quite delicious breakfast.
Lunch is one of the most important meals of the day, so consistent foods will be served during this part of the day. A staple food, like fufu or other starchy foods are served together with grilled meats and sauces. You will see sauces present in many Central African dishes, as local people love a good sauce with their favorite food. Stews are also eaten for lunch, a typical stew being made with spinach, peppers, tomato, onions, chili peppers and peanut butter. Most stews have a wide array of vegetables, containing meat as well, if the recipe includes them. Soups are consumed as well, peanut soup being one example, also served with fufu, or palm butter soup. You will also find spicy meatballs and porridges, such as the one made using rice, peanut butter, lemon, and millet flour.
It is common to find all sorts of snacks being sold on the roads and streets of Central Africa. In the morning rush, not too many people get to have a proper breakfast, so they will take something on the go, in their way to work. Sandwiches, with vegetables or meat, Makara, which is a type of fried bread, barbecued meats, and a variety of baked foods, fruits and nuts are available as a quick snack to calm down hunger.
Dinner is very similar with lunch, the same starchy staple foods being present, served with vegetables or meat with sauces, or all of them. Stews are also appreciated, like the one made with chicken and cumin, or the one made with minced palm nuts, tomatoes, and peanuts, and occasionally chicken, called Muamba. Fish, the Nile perch most often, is found in some recipes, especially for the people in Bangui, because the city is near the river. The fish is cooked in palm leaves, with tomatoes and spices.
Rice with coconut milk is a much-appreciated dessert in Central Africa, also containing cinnamon and lemon zest. Variations of rice pudding will be found, as an alternative sweet treat, just like the sweet peanut butter rice. Pancakes, banana fritters, fruit salads, pies with bananas and dates, and sago pudding, a pudding made with sago, eggs, milk, custard powder, salt and sugar, are also popular desserts.
Drinks made out of hibiscus flowers, called karkanji, ginger beer, palm and banana wine, are the most popular drinks found in Central Africa. Still, one must have at least 18 years old to buy and consume alcohol in this region.
II Central African Holiday Menus
For Christmas, Central Africans will celebrate by serving dinner with the family, preparing something more special than usual. Chicken meat is considered to be a high-quality meat, so it will be preferred in dishes more than any other meat. Vegetables and bread will also be present, together with a wide variety of fruits. Desserts are also served, flavored with coconut, cinnamon and citruses zest.
Other celebrations are the adulthood initiation of young people and weddings, when a rich feast is given, various dishes with meat and vegetables being prepared. Also, someone’s passing on is an important moment in the Central African culture, as spirituality is a large part of it, special meals being prepared with this occasion as well.
III Most Popular Dishes
• Chichinga – goat meat that is barbequed and skewered;
• Kanda ti nyma – spicy meatballs made out of beef;
• Chikwangue – batons made out of manioc starch;
• Shrimps – served with sweet potatoes or boiled yams;
• Chicken and cumin stew – enhanced with tomatoes, onions and garlic;
IV Most Used Ingredients
Meat / Fish: goat, chicken, catfish, crayfish;
Veggies: cassava, plantains, tomatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, chili peppers, yams;
Fruits: bananas, coconut, oranges, pineapple, lemons;
Other: groundnuts, palm oil, rice, palm nuts;
V Street Food – What to Eat when Visiting Central Africa
If you find yourself hungry on the streets of Central Africa, there will be no problem in finding food. Groundnut soup is a very popular type of street food, being prepared in a wide variety of ways, being different from one food stall to another. Still, the standard version will contain peanut butter, chicken or vegetable broth, onions, tomato paste, chili powder, yams, okra, garlic and ginger. You may even find meat, chicken or goat, in some versions. Pea fritters, fish curry, and spicy stews are also on the list of street foods in Central Africa.
Are you from Central Africa? Maybe you visited there? Please feel free to comment and add your own thoughts on Central African ethnic food.