Chicken Yassa. Picture: Instagram (Sainsburys)
Chicken Yassa. Picture: Instagram (Sainsburys)

5 mouthwatering West African dishes you need to try

By Lutho Pasiya Time of article published Apr 28, 2021

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African foods and flavours are as diverse and colourful as the continent, and yet African cuisine is celebrated more in other parts of the world than right here at home.

Generally, South Africans are not adventurous eaters, especially when it comes to trying out cuisine from the rest of the continent, including West African cuisine.

However, beyond our borders, there is an explosion of culinary excellence waiting to be discovered.

Though West African cuisine may remain somewhat of an enigma to many of us, historically speaking it is one of the world’s most influential food cultures.

For anyone looking to explore the wider world of West African food, we recommend first trying the five dishes that we believe have been the most successful in terms of achieving popularity.

Kenkey

Kenkey is a typical Ghanaian dish made from fermented white corn, which is widely consumed throughout the country by Ga people from southern Ghana. Kenkey is prepared from fermented ground white corn (maize).

To prepare it, the corn has to be ground first into flour and mixed with warm water, followed by fermentation (for two to three days) into maize dough.

According to Food Info, the fermented dough is kneaded with the hands until it is thoroughly mixed and slightly stiffened, after which it is divided into two equal parts.

One part of the fermented dough is partially cooked in a large pot of water for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly and vigorously, after which it is combined with the remaining uncooked dough and mixed well.

The cooked half of the dough is called “aflata”. The aflata-dough mixture is divided into serving-sized pieces and wrapped tightly in banana leaves, corn husks, or foil, and the wrapped dough packets are placed on a wire rack above water in a large pot and allowed to boil and steam for one to three hours, depending on their size and thickness. The final product, kenkey, is served with a sauce or any fish or meat dish.

Jollof rice

Jollof rice is a legendary one-pot dish that’s ubiquitous in Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Liberia, Togo and Sierra Leone.

This is the most popular party food in West Africa and has been gaining momentum elsewhere in East Africa. It is a celebration dish.

You eat it at parties, naming ceremonies, weddings, funerals – you name it, you will see the familiar and comforting pot of steaming jollof rice. Because of its popularity, there have been several debates as to its origin.

What we know for sure is that it is an amazing one-pot dish and there is no argument when everyone is shoving it down their throats.

Fufu

Fufu is a staple in a good number of African countries. This version is made by fermenting cassava (yuca roots) then blending and cooking it.

Believed to have originated in modern-day Ghana, it is served family-style in a big round dough-like form. The dough is hand-pulled by each guest, who uses it to soak up the juices in stews or soupy preparations.

It's customary to eat fufu with clean hands as this is finger food in the truest sense of the term.

Chicken Yassa

Chicken Yassa is scrumptious West African comfort food that the whole world needs to know about. It is typically prepared using chicken but works just as great with fish.

Chicken Yassa is made from chicken pieces, marinated overnight with lots of onions, some mustard and a bit of lemon juice. This dish is easy to make, smells great, looks beautiful, and tastes delicious.

Egusi

Egusi is the name for the protein-rich seeds of certain cucurbitaceous plants (plants of the cucumber and pumpkin family), which after being dried and ground are used as a major ingredient in West African cuisine.

Particularly in Nigerian culture, egusi is very popular. It acts as a thickening agent in soups and stews, and adds depth to most meals.

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