I received a lot of feedback on my last column about the top 10 West African dishes to eat, and it was great. West Africans, it seems, feel strongly about their favorite dishes. A lot of places in Africa would benefit from Africans being passionate about what they make, what they are the best at, and their own culture, so hats off to you!
Now, with the permission of the wonderful Africa.com’s editors, I would like to address one specific piece of feedback this week. A few Ghanaians reached out to me to say that foufou was not from Côte d’Ivoire, but originated in Ghana, and I think it’s important to set the record straight.
The Ghanaian fufu is equivalent to the Ivorian foutou (left, click to enlarge) It is a mix of plantains and cassava and it is served with a variety of soups and stews. It is unclear what its origin is. The people who eat it and popularized it in Côte d’Ivoire, the Akans, are also present on the other side of the border in Ghana. So, to avoid any further controversy, it might be fair to say that fufu/foutou is an Akan dish.
Foufou, however, is another ball game altogether (right, click to enlarge). It is made from plantains mashed with warm palm oil. Foufou is not a popular dish in Ghana, few Ghanaians even know of its existence. Actually, not even all Ivorians know about it. It deserves to be known though, and if I were you, I would go buy some plantains and red palm oil to try it out right away. Voilà. The foufou/fufu battle is settled—I hope.
Onto making a new set of detractors. The list of top East African dishes is coming up soon, but before it is finalized, I’d like to ask a question to East Africans and some southern Africans: What is up with ugali (pap), the maize flour porridge or dough? As in, why is it so popular? It is tasteless, shapeless, and the blandness only has the unattractive look of both. I think the only people who like it are the ones who have nice childhood memories associated with it. When they eat it, they taste the memories, not the actual dish! Don’t get me wrong. This is not a gratuitous diss and is not meant to hurt anyone’s feelings. As we say in Côte d’Ivoire, “faut pas fâcher, nous s’amuser,” (“don’t get mad, we are only having a little fun”)! It is however, a challenge to East Africans. Can someone make me like ugali? If you are in New York City, I am available for you to cook for me, and if not, a simple recipe will do. I know it’s about the soup or stews that ugali comes with, but there are many other delicious dishes that can serve that purpose (see this foufou battle above)! So, why ugali? Why?
Linda Dempah co-founded and writes for Tropical Foodies, a blog dedicated to dishes using tropical ingredients. She is living a passionate, lifelong love story with plantains and is sharing her enthusiasm for all the other tropical ingredients on her blog. Follow her on Twitter and like the blog on Facebook.