East Africa, Flavor Principles

Photo credit: Erik Hersman

East Africa (Mauritus, Zambia, Madagascar, Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Réunion, Seychelles, Comoros)**

Except for its rather reticent use of red pepper, East Africa’s indigenous cuisine resembles that of West Africa in many ways.

Starches: Millet, sorghum, corn, cassava, cocoyams, yams, sweet potatoes, bananas, plantains (matoke), potatoes (because of British influence), and rice

Flavoring: Chiles, peanuts, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, turmeric

Fruits: Citrus, papaya, coconuts

The mark of early Arab trade remains in East Africa and indigenous food patterns reflect that. Spicing in Ethiopian cooking overshadows the rest of the region. But on the islands of Réunion and the Seychelles, flavoring food resembles that of India, albeit in a muted manner. Turmeric in particular is one spice used in fairly copious amounts. In many parts of East Africa, the Sunday curry lunch still takes place, a heritage from British colonial days.

Because the tsetse fly affects thirty-three of the countries south of the Sahara, milk production remains at a low level in many areas. But where people can raise cattle, they almost invariably produce some sort of fermented milk product.

(See my previous posts on East Africa:  Safari Cooking: IngredientsA Dish (or Two) for Children in British Colonial Africa, A Cook in Colonial Africa, and What’s Cooking in Kenya? Ugali, Sukuma Wiki, and the Food of Barack Obama’s Father’s Childhood … .)

**For the next few weeks, I am going to be on a “working vacation,” so my posts will be somewhat more abbreviated. I will still provide you with something substantial to chew on, though!

© 2009 C. Bertelsen


4 Comments Add yours

  1. kingbiscuitpants says:

    Tuna casserole also happens to be my kryptonite. It is the only thing I will go way out of my way to avoid eating.


  2. kingbiscuitpants says:

    Thank you so very much for your reply I appreciate it.


  3. Suffice it to say for the moment that I am expecting house guests (family) tomorrow and so I bought bratwurst, Boar’s Head beef hot dogs, and ready-made coleslaw, potato salad, and macaroni salad, plus canned baked beans and canned chili for chili dogs. I have no time to cook much, given our move and a deadline, so I have to do this. But that’s quite an American menu, isn’t it? Meatloaf, roast beef, pork roast, fried chicken, chili con carne, baked beans, tuna-noodle casserole (which I hate more than anything as a kid), ham and beans, steak and fries, and BBQ. Of course, there’s clam chowder and corn chowder and chicken noodle soup Pennsylvania Dutch style. America, you CAN cook!


  4. kingbiscuitpants says:

    As always a fascinating read, as I usually check your blog out before mine in a day. Forgive me as I don’t know a more polite place to put this query but a while back i posted a challenge to my readers to sum up America in 10 meals (warts & all) and I’d love your take on that; at your leisure of course. In any case always a great read & thank you for sharing your knowledge & perspective.
    P.S. I’ve also gotten my culinary student son hooked on your blog.



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