The African continent is the second largest landmass on earth and is home to hundreds of different cultural and ethnic groups. Consequently, the cuisine is a mish-mash of those cultures and genuinely delicious. Common to most of the continent are meals with little meat, plenty of whole grains and beans, and even more fresh fruits and vegetables. African cuisine may well become the new healthy way of cooking.
Sampling cuisine is an important part of soaking up local culture. In the case of the African continent, the food is varied, featuring some familiar items and others that are more exotic.
Here are some authentic foods you might consider sampling when you visit the continent:
Zanzibari Biryanis and Pilaus
You can practically feel the warm trade winds on your face tasting these great celebration dishes based on rice and the exotic array of spices synonymous with Zanzibar. There are all sorts of variations on biryani, ranging from humble vegetable dishes to more complex ones incorporating meat and seafood; pilau is a dish generously spiced with cardamom, cumin and pepper. Both are delicious accompanied by kachumbari, a fresh onion and tomato salad popular across East Africa. Another quintessential dish of Zanzibar is urojo, a broth made with many different ingredients including pieces of meat, chili, mango, ginger, tamarind and lime.
Where to taste them: For authentic Zanzibari cooking, try Forodhani Gardens, a street food market in Stone Town, and for its excellent Swahili cuisine, Lukmaan Restaurant, Mkunazini, Stone Town.
This unique, polenta-like side dish is a Tanzanian favorite, traditionally served for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Made by rolling a tiny bit of creamy, thick cornmeal paste made from cooked white maize by hand until it forms into a ball, and making an indentation in it with your thumb. Ugali becomes an edible spoon often dipped into stews and sauces. The whole thing is usually dipped in a savory sauce. Ugali is more than just a taste, it is a food culture in itself. This dish is usually served with whatever meat is available, mashed vegetables or stews.
Where to taste it: Uzunguni Park Restaurant, 20 Ingira Street, Arusha, Tanzania.
Piri Piri Chicken
Especially popular in Mozambique, this dish is a heady blend of African, Portuguese, oriental and Arab flavors – think fragrant spices, hot piri piri and creamy coconut sauces, with hints of cashews and peanuts. Sizzling, spicy prawns and seafood are often a first choice for visitors, 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. It's generally known as grilled chicken piri piri by tourists, and is traditionally served with matapa, a dish of cassava leaves cooked in peanut sauce.
Where to taste it: Head to Piri Piri, an unpretentious eatery with a charming atmosphere and an interesting crowd. Avenida 24 de Julho, Maputo.
This Tunisian salad is made with grilled, coarsely chopped onions, peppers, tomatoes, and garlic, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with caraway, salt, and black pepper. The salad is then typically garnished with hard-boiled eggs, olives, or tuna and can be served on its own, but it is also often piled on toasted bread or baguette slices. It is quite common to find it in Tunisia as a part of a mix of appetizers in traditional restaurants.
Where to taste it: L'Auberge de Tamezret, C104, Tamezret 6054, Tunisia.
When in Africa experiencing the different types of cuisines and cultures, stay in luxury accommodations at Mahali Mzuri. This spectacular luxury safari camp experience perched in the very heart of East Africa. Perched on the gentle hills of Kenya's Olare Motorogi Conservancy, Mzuri's autonomous suites command awe-inspiring vistas over endless grasslands speckled by majestic Baobab trees. Twelve sumptuous bedrooms to accommodate up to 24 guests, push the bounds of outback luxury with stunning ensuites and even a clawfoot soaking tub perched before grassland panoramas. Mahali Mzuri includes a massage pavilion and chic speakeasy-style bar invoking the safari escapades of the 20th century's most famed adventurers.
Maharagwe is a popular African dish made by stewing red beans with various other ingredients. The dish can be prepared in both sweet and savory versions. Beans are typically boiled with coconut milk, cardamom, cinnamon, onions, tomatoes, garlic, curry powder, chili peppers, and green peppers. It is recommended to serve maharagwe with chapati bread or ugali. Although the dish is African, there are some obvious Indian influences in the ingredients.
Where to taste it: Grand Restaurant, 123 Samora Ave, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
This South African dish consists of a half or a quarter loaf of bread hollowed out and stuffed with curry cooked with kidney beans or meats such as mutton, chicken, and lamb. It is traditionally consumed without utensils. The dish originated in the city of Durban, and it is believed that bunny chow owes its origins to the Indian immigrants who came to South Africa in the late 19th century. Today, this filling dish has crossed borders, so it is also quite popular in the United Kingdom.
Where to taste it: Chowz Authentic Durban Experience, Shop 7, Cnr Straight & Forst Road, The Straight Ave, Lone Hill, Johannesburg, 1730, South Africa.
Jollof rice is Nigeria's national dish. Rice is cooked in a rich tomato sauce so it soaks in all the flavors. The most common ingredients are tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, salt, and pepper. On top of that, any kind of meat, vegetable, fish or spice can be added. It is important to have a delicious sauce, so in addition to tomatoes, there are also ingredients such as coconut milk, nutmeg, partminger (African basil leaf) and sometimes even Rooibos tea. Jollof rice is also known as benachin, meaning one pot in the native language of the Wolof people who created it. Although it is a Nigerian dish with Senegalese origins, it can be found all over West Africa with some variations in ingredients.
Where to taste it: Jevinik Restaurant, 14b Agoro odiyan Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria.
One of the most memorable parts of a luxury vacation in exotic locations is trying local dishes. The traditional cuisine of Africa is incredibly varied as it is delicious. If you have been thinking about visiting this great continent, we invite you to reach out to an LVH client relations team member who will provide you with the information you need, so we can start putting the planning wheels in motion. Our main priority is giving you the most memorable time away, including an itinerary bursting with things you love to do. If dining is among them, rest assured, your African adventure will include some of the best restaurants where you will be able to sample local cuisine.