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Traditional Cuisine in East Africa

What makes South African food so unique is the large variety of different flavours and kinds of food that you find in Africa. This is due to the diverse cultures and customs that the nation is so well known for. There is such a big difference between the food that you find in East Africa, Central Africa, Southern Africa and North Africa. Here we shall take a look at Traditional Cuisine in East Africa.

East African Cuisine

Culture plays a large part on the type of cuisine eaten here. Due to cattle, sheep and goats being regarded as a form of income and wealth, meat is generally not consumed. However, milk and the blood of cattle is. Farmers grow grains and vegetables. Maize is a staple and is the basis of ugali (a type of corn) which is enjoyed in stews. An unusual dish of steamed green bananas called matoke is used to bulk up various meals.


When the Arabs settled in East Africa about 1000 years ago they introduced Swahili cuisine which included steamed rice with Persian spices such as saffron, cloves and cinnamon. Centuries afterwards there was British and Indian influence where vegetable curries were introduced to spice up the rather bland dishes. A variety of pickles and chapattis (unleavened bread simply made with wheat flour, water and salt) were also incorporated. Chapattis are filled with a variety of delicious fillings, wrapped or rolled up and eaten with the hands. It is also great for mopping up juices from curries or stews. Recipe for chapattis: About.com

When the Portuguese arrived from Asia they introduced fruit to the country such as oranges, lemons, limes, tomatoes and pineapples. Chillies and peppers were also brought in, adding more flavour and spiciness to the food. A few interesting dishes which you can try out when you have access to these wonderful ingredients when on safari are:

Congo Tofu: tomato paste, peanut butter, onion, garlic and tofu

Doro Wat: whole chicken, stewed in a variety of Ethiopian flavours

Ethiopian Cabbage dish: A simple, but tasty and satisfying dish made with potatoes, cabbage, onion and carrots

Green banana fries: Made from unripe bananas, cut into thin wedges and fried in a deep fryer

Mombasa Pumpkin dessert: A rich, creamy dessert made with pumpkin, coconut milk, sugar and cardamom

Click on this link to make these dishes.

Photograph courtesy of East African Cafe

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About Bronwyn Paxton

Article by: Bronwyn Paxton
on July 8, 2013
Filed under  Africa Blog • Kenya 
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