I was in Malindi, Kenya, when I left the Western food served at the resort, to go find some local cuisine. The guy who drove we around in his tuk tuk suggested I try nyama choma and matoke. Ever the sucker for adventure, especially when it comes to food, I let him take me to a street vendor he frequents for the food. Nyama Choma is basically shisanyama, but the meat it so tender, it basically falls of the bone. I loved it. I didn't enjoy the matoke - plantain bananas cooked with oil, chillies, tomato and onions until it becomes a thick sauce- but it left me more appreciative of the country's local cuisine. I've now started a journey where I try to experience as much food from the continent. So I found Funmi, a foodie and travel blogger who has written extensively about African cuisine and profiled some of the best chefs in the continent.
Why do you think has brought about more awareness about the foods that Africa has to offer the world?
Everything about Africa is colourful. We go hard with our music, our dances, our traditional attires and our charisma. The same can be said of our meals. I think the world is beginning to recognise the uniqueness of Africa’s dishes, because Africans themselves have taken the bull by the horn to project their food stories to the world.
Do you think social media has played a part in this, especially since people share food pictures and how to videos?
Yes. Social media has played a big role in projecting African cuisines. The world is a smaller and much more connected place than it was 50 years ago. Social media is like a stage where everyone can post anything for the world to see.
What is it about our cuisine that warms your heart?
There is a homeliness to the way many Africans eat food. We have such a diversity of cuisines even in Nigeria, and especially throughout the continent. However, everywhere you go, can taste the energy of the culture in the food. Our meals are made with so much time, love and detail, and the way we eat (often together) makes food an experience. Also, we love spice! Almost everything we eat is spicy and this does not necessarily mean hot, but full of spice.
What do we do to introduce people to indigenous African food, especially those who have only had South African cuisine and need to try out food from the rest of the continent?
Get them to see the other parts of the continent! Oh,how much people miss when they take a sample from one country and wrongly assume that that’s all the continent has to offer.
Funmi suggests you try out Nigeria's Egusi soup, Ghana's Kelewele and Kenya's Nyama Choma Picture: Collage designed via Fotor.com
So say I'm at an African restaurant, what would you suggest we try out at a:
Nigerian - Jollof rice, of course. But also, we have lots of meals that are not part of any war. I recommend pepper soup for lovers of spice and egusi soup with pounded yam for something very rooted in Nigeria.
Ghanaian - Kelewele (spicy fried plantains). This is simple yet delicious and can be eaten alone as a side dish or with rice.
Kenyan - Nyama Choma (roasted meat). I think Kenyans pride themselves on this dish and it is worth trying.
The Jollof rice debate- where do you stand?
I am Nigerian, so my standard for jollof rice is Nigerian, especially because that is what I was exposed to first. I am thankful to Senegal for the gift they initially gave to the world, appreciative of Ghana’s spin on the dish and loyal to Nigerian party jollof rice.