Ever since the 11th century Africa has enjoyed a blend of seasoned and vibrant spices. These spices have found their way into the daily lives of the common people, becoming part of their culture and tradition. Spices have not just added color to food in Africa, but also a distinct taste of pride in every meal. Though sparingly used, these spices serve functional purposes, not just for the enjoyment of a great meal, but also in order to maintain a healthy state.
West African Cuisine
West African countries have not been left behind. From the coastal shores of Sierra Leon and Liberia to the landlocked countries of Mali and Niger, these countries have held an unbreakable tradition of spicing their foods. Though they limit the use of spices in their cooking, it is apparent that they love chili spices. Backed by a popular belief that chili opens up your pores, many use chili peppers in their cooking, thus in the process air conditioning the skin in this exceptionally humid conditions. Moreover, the use of chili in their cooking preserves their food. It is for this and many other reasons that West Africans use the hottest of chili peppers in their cooking. This type of chili is so hot that tears will start to roll down your cheeks after the first bite.
The Guinea pepper is commonly used in West African cuisines. It’s seeds, which have been used for generations, are widely added to add flavor to foods considered bland, like the root vegetables. This precious commodity is highly acclaimed and sometimes is even called the ‘grains of paradise’.
Another equally important spice is called the Soumbala, a flavoring often used in this part of the continent. This is a unique spice since because unlike other spices, it takes several days to prepare, all for the enjoyment of one dinner. West African women commonly use soybeans,mainly due to the lack of other native ingredients, to prepare this spice. It is thereafter kept for a few days to ferment, which in turn produces a savory flavor and a deep smell enjoyed by all.
Other spices include the African salt, commonly known as African Potash, which is an old tradition of making salt from wooden ashes. This salt is used to enhance the taste of the food and also preserve it.The spices of West African cuisine may be a mix of unusual chili peppers fermented spices and salt ashes, but it’s definitely a unique taste of African culture.