African gourmet on the move
Chefs and entrepreneurs are bringing cuisine from the continent to the masses
According to Wikipedia, gourmet “may describe a class of restaurant, cuisine, meal or ingredient of high quality, of special presentation, or high sophistication.” I would say that is just about right in describing these foods from African sources that have elevated local loves and made them accessible to foodies around the world.
I, of course, have to start this list with Chef Pierre Thiam’s Yolélé Foods’ fonio. Living in Senegal for nearly eight years, I have a deep love for this supergrain (native to Senegal) that has found a resurgence in popularity thanks to Chef Thiam.
Gluten-free, fonio, a member of the millet family, contains three times the protein, fiber and iron of rice, and can be used in baking, added to soups and salads or substituted for other grains in your favorite dishes and recipes.
Thought to be one of the oldest, cultivated grains across Africa, Chef Thiam also believes the export of this drought-resistant grain could transform Sahel economies. In “A forgotten ancient grain that could help Africa prosper”, his 2017 TEDGlobal talk, he discusses the influence fonio has had on his journey as a chef.
I first met Chef Selassie Atadika in Dakar, where she and her business partners hosted nomadic dining experiences once a month. Now back in her native Ghana, Chef Atadika, still welcomes guests to her table, but has also created the most decadent chocolate truffles I’ve ever tasted.
Midunu Chocolates are “artisanal handcrafted chocolates made with Ghanaian cocoa”, and highlight the flavors of Africa’s teas, coffees, tisanes, fruits and spices. Each truffle is named after a woman according to the region of the continent responsible for its inspiration.
From the “Spice Collection” find the Almaz truffle, a floral Ethiopian chili blend in a milk chocolate ganache and wrapped in dark chocolate. In the “Fruit Collection” there is Afua with a sweet pineapple filling and a hint of basil. Mehret, found in the “Tea, Tisane, and Coffee Collection”, is a full-bodied, East African coffee in milk chocolate ganache, steeped in dark chocolate.
Sourcing all ingredients locally, or directly from producers across Africa, Chef Atadika continues to invent new flavors and is working on increasing the number of speciality boutiques and hotel turndown services where her truffles can be found. Currently available at locations across Accra.
Living in a fast moving, urban city can sometimes be challenging. However, there are small wonders that make down time relaxing and indulging. Sipping on YSWARA artisanal teas is one of my favorite ways to wash off the grit and restore my body and mind to a peaceful existence.
Founded by Swaady Martin, YSWARA teas use buds, leaves and spices that are ethically sourced from African farmers in countries throughout the continent including Rooibos from South Africa, wild yam from Nigeria, Penja pepper from Cameroon and kinkeliba from Senegambia.
Not yet widely available outside the continent, YSWARA can be found at boutiques in Senegal, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Mauritius, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon.
Nigerians everywhere will quickly scowl at me for this one, but once you taste the traditional flavors of your beloved groundnut or egunsi soups in these fresh, bottled (yes bottled!) treats from Yemisi Awosan’s Egunsifoods, I guarantee you will be pleased.
Based in Harlem, U.S.A., Egunsifoods is on a mission to return to the African legacy of farm-to-table, and partners with small scale farmers to source raw materials for their West African dishes. The current product line includes four soups: Oba Ata (West African tomato), Egunsi (melon seed), Groundnut (peanutbutter), and Gbegiri (brown-eyed peas); and the spicy Ata Din Din sauce made from red peppers.
“Nice Eating You” is a journal of all the good food I find from artisanal foodpreneurs, innovative chefs, new restaurants, and epicureans that join me in celebrating the “best of” in the culinary world.