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What is an African food ingredient?

What is an African Food Ingredient especially African spices and herbs?

Gallery of Spices and Herbs (Courtesy Myweku Ingredients)

I was born and bred in a part of Africa where egusi, birds eye chili pepper, grains of paradise, selim pepper and hot sauces like shito were common ingredients in dishes. A few hundred miles away from my city and the cuisine and corresponding ingredients changed drastically. I’d move from fish based meals to roasted goat meat spiced with suya or chinchinga spice. Rather than chicken i’d find myself obsessing about the taste of guinea fowl and duck flavoured with all sorts of parts of plants and trees i’d never seen before let alone taste.

Gallery of Spices and Herbs (Courtesy Myweku Ingredients)

Traveling outside West Africa to North Africa gave me an opportunity to experience the delights of all sorts of dishes such as couscous and
tagines flavoured with spices such as Ras El Hanout. My affair with mint tea in North Africa became so intense that I had to buy my own tea set with mint to last a life time! It took no less than a three quarters of an hour to decide on the very best amongst some of the finest.

The store owner must have been so taken in by my enthusiasm for mint that he gave me a gift of saffron (below). It was the first time I had set eyes on and touched saffron, the most expensive spice in the world.

saffron marakesh

I have had the pleasure of feasting on traditional Ethiopian meals and South African delicacies like biltong.

This leads me to one conclusion. Strictly speaking there is no such thing as an African cuisine. The sheer number and varieties of cuisines makes it impossible to define or restrict any flavour profile to Africa. This is made more complex by the incorporation of cuisines more traditionally associated with Indian, Malay, European, Chinese and the Middle East into some cuisines across Africa.

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Grains of Paradise – MyWeku Ingredients

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Black Sesame Seeds – Myweku Ingredients

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Fennel Seeds – MyWeku Ingredients

Cinnamon Cassia - Myweku Ingredients

Cinnamon Cassia – Myweku Ingredients

Chilli Powder - MyWeku Ingredients

Chilli Powder – MyWeku Ingredients

Lemon Grass - MyWeku Ingredients

Lemon Grass – MyWeku Ingredients

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Sumac – MyWeku Ingredients

Nutmegs - Myweku Ingredient

Nutmegs – Myweku Ingredient

Sesame Seeds

Sesame Seeds – MyWeku Ingredients

A food ingredient, I am led to believe is a “substance that forms part of a mixture (in a general sense). For example, in cooking, recipes specify which ingredients are used to prepare a specific dish”.

So when I use the term, “African Food Ingredient”, I am referring to every native fruit, cereal grains, herbs, spices that is indigenous to the whole African continent. However, I also include every cereal grain, fruit, herbs and spices that have been introduced and are now grown or used in Central Africa, East Africa, the Horn of Africa, North Africa, Southern Africa and West Africa cuisine. 



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