At the heart of African culture, you will find the thing that bonds people together...food. Time honored recipes define more than a dish. Crafted from ingredients that each seem to have a story to tell, culminating the right seasonings is as important as the final product when it comes to African food. You can add some spice to your kitchen and recreate the tastes of Africa with the addition of a few key ingredients.
In most parts of Africa, curry is a staple ingredient. Used for seasoning meats and making rich stews, curry is actually a blend of several spices. It contains ginger, chili powder, cumin, turmeric, coriander, and lots of ground pepper. Its spiciness is dictated by the amount of pepper that is added into the mixture.
Curry is readily available in the United States. It can be found in all major supermarkets. But, to get a more authentic curry flavor, buy your curry from a specialty shop that specializes in African or Caribbean foods. This strong seasoning should be used liberally and makes an amazing marinade. The more that you use, the better the taste.
Super creamy and absolutely perfect for thickening soups and other African dishes, coconut milk is a must have ingredient. Coconut milk has a heavier oil content than other milks and is, therefore, an absolute for recreating the tastes of the motherland in your kitchen. It plays an integral role across the food spectrum and can be found in tons of desserts.
Rice is often cooked with coconut milk. This combination will give the rice a more sticky texture. It is then paired with other seasonings, beans, and meats. Available canned, you can easily have coconut milk ready in your kitchen pantry for preparing your next African-inspired meal.
A favorite across Africa, plantains are indigenous to the continent. Plantain is similar to a banana in texture and taste, but it is not a banana. The plantain fruit is actually used as both a starchy vegetable and a sweet fruit. When it is not ripe, it is green and is prepared with meats and stews. In its ripened form, when its skin takes on a black appearance, plantain is often sliced and fried. Plantains make an amazing stuffing as well. You can buy plantains just about everywhere in the United States.
When we think of African foods, we don’t really think about it with regard to “snacking”. However, plantain is the quintessential African snack. It is sold as a snack food by street vendors throughout Africa. Plantain is versatile in that it can be grilled, boiled, fried, or mashed, and with savory spices or in its naturally sweet, ripened form. However you decide to experiment with plantains in your kitchen, they are sure to be quite enjoyable and give you an even greater respect for African cuisine.