But African foods – especially those south of the Sahara – are still underrepresented on the global culinary scene.
From the humble maize/cereal porridges and root vegetables that form the basis of so many diets, to great feasts such as breyanis, tagines, stews and aromatic curries, Africa’s favorite dishes offer something for every taste.
This article focuses on regional foods that you can enjoy in some of the more popular tourist destinations.
1. Porridge and meat / Shisa nyama, South Africa
Roast beef and corn mash is a combination that is very popular in many South African cultures, and particularly in South Africa, where braaivleis is a revered institution and practically a national sport. “Pap en vleis” (literally “porridge of corn and meat”) is a colorful umbrella term that includes almost any combination of starch and bread or stew, with the obligatory accompaniment of spicy sauce, lami or chakalaka.
Shisa nyama, meaning “burnt meat” in Zulu, refers to a festive “bring-a-grill” gathering; Shisa nyama restaurants are often located right next to a butcher shop, so diners can choose their own meat and have it cooked to order over a blazing fire.
Chops, steaks, chicken, kebabs and boerewors – spicy boerewors – are accompanied by corn porridge in various forms, including phuthu and hard porridge, krummelpap (crumbly porridge) and suurpap (sour porridge).
2. Piri piri chicken, Mozambique
Mozambican cuisine is a heady blend of African, Portuguese, Oriental and Arabic flavors – think aromatic spices, hot piri piri and creamy coconut sauces with hints of cashews and peanuts.
Sizzling, spicy prawns and seafood are often the first choice for visitors to Maputo, but don’t miss the iconic Mozambican dish Galinha à Zambeziana, a succulent feast of chicken cooked with lime, pepper, garlic, coconut milk and piri piri sauce.
Commonly known as piri piri grilled chicken among tourists, it is traditionally served with matapa, a dish of cassava leaves cooked in peanut sauce.
3. Jollof rice and egusi soup, Nigeria
It is not easy to choose a national favorite food for Nigeria as it is a big country with many different regional foods. But one food you can’t leave Nigeria without eating is jollof rice, which is very popular throughout West Africa and is believed to be the origin of the Cajun dish jambalaya.
A simple, spicy one-pot dish consisting of rice, tomatoes, onions and peppers at its most basic, it is often served at parties and other festive gatherings alongside other Nigerian favorites such as egusi soup (made from ground melon seeds ) and bitter leaves), fried plantain and crushed yam (iyan or fufu).
Other foods to try in Nigeria include thick, spicy soups made from okra and flavored with chicken or beef, and suya, which are spicy Nigerian skewers (like chichinga in Ghana) cooked by vendors in a pan.
4. Bunny chow, South Africa
No one is sure how rabbit chow got its name, but what is certain is that this hollowed-out half or quarter of a loaf of white bread filled with blistering hot curry is one of the most prized street foods in South Africa. The baskets of meat and vegetables that fill the bunny were bought in South Africa by Indian laborers who came to South Africa in the 19th century to work in the sugar cane fields.
Available as a takeaway in all major cities, but the best bunnies come from Durban.
5. Kapenta se sadza, Zimbabwe
A pile of crispy kapenta is a culinary highlight for many visitors to Zimbabwe.
Kapenta, which consists of two species of small freshwater fish native to Lake Tanganyika, was introduced into Lake Kariba and is now a popular source of protein for Zambian lake populations. and Zimbabwe. Like many African dishes, kapenta is often accompanied by a pile of delicious maize porridge, known in Zimbabwe as sadza. Kapenta is available both dry and fresh, seasoned with tomatoes, onions and peanut powder and served with fresh vegetables.
Don’t take a knife and fork to eat kapenta: the traditional way to eat this dish is to scoop up the sadza with your hands and dip or roll it with the accompanying fish and enjoy.
Another food you should try when visiting Zimbabwe is fresh bream or tilapia from Lake Kariba, grilled or fried with lots of lemon butter.