Jollof rice, fried chicken and plantain
Picture: Instagram (naija_foodie)
Jollof rice, fried chicken and plantain Picture: Instagram (naija_foodie)

West African food served in SA

By Megan Baadjies Time of article published Dec 3, 2018

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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 aren't  adventurous eaters, especially when it  comes to trying out cuisine from the  rest of the continent, especially West  African cuisine.

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

The West African food trend is said  to be one of the biggest culinary trends  in 2019, and it's predicted to become  more popular in the coming months.

Restaurants around the world are  already capitalising on this trend by  including more African-inspired dishes  alongside their fine dining European-style  offerings.

Many local chefs are also doing  their part to promote African food as  more West African-inspired dishes are  popping up on restaurant menus.

Even social media platforms are  filled with plates of Jollof rice, fried  plantain and colourful vegetables as  foodies from around the continent  and the world celebrate Africa on a  plate. 

The beauty of these dishes is  in the explosion of flavours and their  simplicity.

Fatima Kamanga, the owner of Fatima's  West African Restaurant in Cape Town, opened her restaurant long  before her offerings became trendy.

In the centre of the CBD, and surrounded  by other culinary hot spots,  Kamanga says she has noticed an  increase in the number of locals who  frequent her establishment.

"We serve a wide selection of local  food like pap, rice, Jollof, braai meat  and even fish and sausage.  A lot of my new customers are  locals, and they seem to really enjoy  the food. The people love it because  (West African food) is good food. People  always come back for more," she says.

Not wanting to give away her cooking  secrets, the Malian restaurateur  says West African food is "different  because we make it differently".

"Our food is very different and it's  because of our spices. It's not the same  as (other styles of cooking)," she adds.

On the flip side, SA Top Chef judge  and author of Dijo, Lesego Semenya,  disagrees on the West African social  food trend on South African plates.

"I actually did a Pan-African cooking  class two months ago. West African  food, it's not for South Africans, hey.  I've realised that Jollof rice and all the  West African dishes, they do more  one-pot cooking, and they cook their  food until it's dead," he says.

Semenya says it may take a while  for South African palates to adjust to  this style of cooking.

"South African palates aren't used  to that type of cuisine, although we're  trying to the more we travel. Most of  the time when we cook that type of  cuisine it's for people who are tourists  here or West Africans themselves.

"I've tried myself to get South Africans  into a new type of cuisine, but we  have this mentality – we need to ease  into it, little by little – so not a full course
meal, maybe one dish.  Possibly  just Jollof rice or plantains, something  people will recognise on the plate."

Semenya concludes: "Getting the  big stores involved as well will help,  because if people see the ingredients in  the store then they are more interested  in cooking with it." 

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