Monday, September 24, 2007

African Culinary Entrepreneurs

I just discovered the site of Yeti Ezeanii, a West African transplanted to the U.S. who shares the vision to meet the acute need for quality African culinary videos. Her website
includes recipes and demonstrations of North, South, East and West African dishes in what I assume is her pleasant, well-equipped kitchen in Atlanta, Georgia. Her on-camera style is friendly, fun, and relaxed, and she is comfortable and confident as she adapts classic African recipes to Western kitchens. Be patient and give the videos time to download and you're in for a good time.

Just remember if you begin comparing different African videos, the continent is huge, and just as there isn't a single way to prepare chili or spaghetti, there are innumerable variations of all the classic African dishes.

Everywhere I turn, there are enterprising African culinary innovators from Africa like Yeti. I often feature them in this blog (like chemical engineer
Yaw Adusei and his fufu flour or Cameroonian Julie Ndjee and her husband Albert and their "Neilly's Ultimate Seasoning".) There's also Tomilola Awoniyi, a woman I learned about through Bola Olabisi, herself an innovator embodying the whole idea of "betumi power" behind this blog and founder of the Global Women Inventors and Innovators Network as well as the Nigerian Female Inventor and Innovator of the Year Awards). In 2004 Tomilola Awoniyi won the first Nigerian Female Inventor & Innovator of the Year Award for her LIZVIC Special PAP (ogi) a type of nutritious maize breakfast cereal she developed out of necessity.

I met several more culinary innovators in Ghana last June, and I'll feature them in another blog soon. Please let me know about others!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Refogado in Ghana

I've learned a great Portuguese culinary word: refogado. The book Barbara Baeta and I are writing on Ghanaian regional cuisine has a section on the ABCs of cooking in Ghana. It includes a discussion of one of the basic building blocks of most Ghanaian stews: a sauce/stew base made from oil, chopped or sliced onions, and tomatoes, as well as other ingredients like garlic or peppers. The "correct" way to prepare the base is to heat the oil, saute the onions first, then stir in the tomatoes, etc. This is what they call "refogado" in Brazil, and is, likewise, a basic technique for beginning many dishes in Brazil. As my husband is fond of saying "travel and see!"

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Chart of African Carbohydrates/Starches

Here's the chart I mentioned that I put together to try and organize my understanding of some of the most common starches/carbohydrates I've run across. I'm sure there are many omissions and maybe some errors, so please help me to update and expand this listing.

(from "Food and Foodways (see July 18, 2007 posting)," in The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Popular Cutlure, Sub-Saharan Africa Vol. 5, p. 101-2, © Fran Osseo-Asare, 2007)

Food Name



Typical Ingredients


West Africa


fermented corn dough steamed in corn husks or banana leaves



fermented corn dough, stirred and cooked (soft)



fermented corn dough porridge (thin)

tuo zaafe


thick sorghum or millet porridge



fermented porridge from sorghum, millet, and/or maize

gari (farine de manioc)

West/Central Africa


dried, grated, fermented cassava meal

fufu (1)

(in Nigeria, also called iyan or pounded yam)

West/Central Africa)




peeled, boiled, pounded stiff but elastic dumpling, generally not chewed (yam, cassava, cocoyam, ripe or green plantain, single or combination)

fufu (2)

Central Africa

especially DRC, CAR, Cameroon

a stiff porridge made from white corn flour, cassava flour, or a combination (similar to ugali, sadza, pap, nsima)


West Africa


a fibrous, powdery form of fermented cassava similar to, but coarser than, fufu


West Africa

Côte D’Ivoire

steamed fermented cassava granules

miondo, (myondo)

bobolo, bâton de manioc


(miondo is a Duala word, bobolo is Ewando)

cassava roots soaked and fermented, peeled, mashed, drained, ground, wrapped in banana leaves and boiled or steamed




Congo, Gabon

similar to miondo



(Tshiluba) See fufu (2)



Eastern Africa


fermented crepe/pancake commonly made from a type of millet called tef (teff), but also with sorghum or wheat



see injera



fermented millet porridge


Kenya, Tanzania

Swahili word for porridge, thin to thick, made from maize, millet,and/or sorghum


Various, esp. Kenya, Tanzania

Swahili word for a thick porridge (or dumpling) commonly made from cornmeal, but also made with cassava flour



see ugali

atapa (atap)


ground dried sweet potato porridge, with ground millet/cassava and flavorings


Southern Africa

South Africa

Dutch word for porridge made from cornmeal flour or other staple grain



see pap



stiff porridge (or dumpling) made from white field corn flour or red millet flour


Zambia, Malawi

see pap



corn pap (see pap)


South Africa

thin porridge made from slightly fermented cornmeal


South Africa

(Zulu) a crumbly version of pap (see pap)


South Africa

(Xhosa) a crumbly version of pap (see pap)

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Mandioca and Cassava: An Afro-Brazilian Link

Did you know that:
1. cassava (or manioc, or mandioca) is originally from Brazil?
2. cassava spread from Brazil to Asia and Africa?
3. today Nigeria is the world's largest producer of the roots?
4. Thailand is the biggest producer and exporter of its starch?

In 2005, I noticed an unusual and intriguing talk on the program for the International Association of Culinary Professionals' annual conference--it was on manioc, not exactly a household word in the IACP. Even though I could not attend the conference that year, I wrote to ask for a copy of the talk from one of the presenters, Margarida Nogueira. Later, I met with her briefly in Rio de Janeiro. Now back in Brazil, I was trying to track down another Brazilian whose name is associated with manioc: Teresa Corção, the founder of the Manioc Project (Projeto Mandioca). It turns out Teresa and Margarida were co-presenters at that 2005 IACP conference. In 2002, Teresa, a chef, restaranteur, culinary historian and educator, founded the manioc institute, and started the manioc project.

To quote Teresa: "The real importance of this product is mostly unknown, although it is very much used and appreciated in our daily meals. In the very first contacts that the discoverer of Brazil – Pedro Alvares Cabral – had with the Indians Tupiniquins, in the south of the state of Bahia, he was introduced to manioc, a native product of those then unexplored lands

To our native Amerindians, manioc was the most important ingredient in the preparation of different meals such as porridges, cakes, breads (pirão, beiju, mingau, paçoca). As the European wheat was not suitable to the climate of the newly discovered lands, the colonizer had to get used to manioc, a root so much appreciated nowadays throughout the world. No other product is as much Brazilian and has such an importance as manioc."

To quote from a blog posting on the Terra Madre site: "With this in mind, and working together with a team of experts Teresa decided to launch her project. Through workshops in public schools, children learn the importance of manioc during informal classes, theater and hands on cooking demonstration, learning how to prepare tapioca and other traditional Brazilian dishes. This way they strengthen their relationship with their Brazilian identity.

Projeto Mandioca has been supported by EMBRAPA - Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária (Brazilian Agroindustry Research Company). This organization maintains Projeto Mandioca permanently updated in whatever concerns manioc in Brazil and worldwide, while improving its research studies on the subject."

Teresa, Margarida, and I are exploring the possiblility of collaborating on further research and writing on the whole subject. It's an exciting project to me, with possibilties for adaptation in Africa.