4 food and drinks we think you should try while in West Africa

bissap-west-africa

In this post, we briefly discuss four of our favorite food and drinks, inspired by decade-long experiences and multiple conversations with former guests. Feel free to try any of the listed, maybe even request to learn how to make them while traveling with Nugwa Journeys. Our selection draws on the ethnic diversity of the region and the uniqueness of the each ethnic group’s culinary heritage.

Jollof Rice

jollof-rice-west-africa

The jollof rice is rightly crowned the most popular food across West Africa. We think it’s also the most controversial because of the incessant arguments it triggers among citizens of West African countries. The food reportedly originated among the Wollof group in present-day Senegal. However, it is the leading cause of friendly, and periodically heated, arguments between Nigerians and Ghanaians (see Jollof wars). The debate over which country makes a better jollof won’t end anytime soon.

Jollof rice is made from a combination of rice and stew (from chicken, beef and fish among others) combined and cooked to finish in a single pot. It is a popular food in many West African homes and is a must-have at any wedding or birthday party….if such party is to be taken seriously. Inspired by the arguments among their West African friends, a number of guests have previously requested jollof-themed trip to West Africa. We know the best places to try the food in each country. You can choose to take sides after the tour!  

Palm Wine

palm-wine-west-africa

Oh the palm wine! The drink has played important roles in the West Africa region, from sealing royal marriages to marking the end of wars. It continues to be important in major cultural ceremonies, including traditional marriages and burial rites. It is the only alcoholic drink on our list and the only one that’s not prepared but tapped fresh from a tree; the West African palm. The drink is known by various names depending on which country you visit.

Initially non-alcoholic when freshly tapped (it contains pure natural sucrose), it gradually ferments throughout the day, especially if exposed to the sun’s heat. Thus depending on a guest’s alcohol tolerance, he/she might choose a 5-day old wine or a freshly tapped one. It is best served chilled and best enjoyed with friends.

Bissap

bissap-west-africa

Wild hibiscus boiled with pineapple peels and ginger. Maybe with a bit of honey.  The unique aroma of bissap (called zobo in Nigeria) is never mistaken. The drink is popular across West Africa, from Nigeria to Senegal. It is also popular among various age group due to its non-alcoholic nature and its perceived health benefits.

Bissap is best served chilled, especially with snacks during brunch. On our last group trip to Ghana, Nugwa Journeys organized a bissap class with one of the most respected makers in Ghana. Though it required spending some time in the kitchen and ensuring that the hibiscus leaves didn’t boil over, we had a nice time enjoying the metaphorical fruit of our labor. Nothing beats the drink’s rich color and taste.

Akara Balls

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You’ll find mention of the popular akara in novels by West African authors as well as in far-off places like the Caribbean and Brazil. But it originated in the West Africa region and remains a popular breakfast option in most countries, especially in the Gulf of Guinea region (Ghana, Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Cameroon).

Akara is made from ground bean seeds mixed with West African pepper and fried in palm or vegetable oil. It is best eaten hot (right off the fry pan) with milk tea or any of the local drinks. We’ve tried it on most of our trips and hosted a cooking class for previous guests.    

Conclusion

West Africa plays host to countless culinary options. We thought you might want to try these by learning a thing or two about each food/drink’s history and role in the occasional and daily lives of citizens of West African countries. Speak to us about what you’re interested in and we’ll try to organize something special. A cooking demonstration. A 5-country culinary tour of the famed jollof rice and palm wine. Nugwa Journeys possesses deep knowledge of the region’s culinary richness.

Nugwa & Co. designs private luxury trips to interesting locations across West Africa. Learn more about us at https://nugwa.com/

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