One of the joys of travelling to a new country is trying out the local street food. With over 50 countries to choose from in Africa, you truly are spoiled for choice with the various tastes and flavours the continent has to offer, each wonderfully unique. African street food is not only delicious and spicy, but it is rich in history and diversity, dating back to ancient times when workers were building the Pyramids of Giza and infusing influences of African, Latin American, European and Asian descent.
Street food pertains to food prepared and sold by the locals living in a country, and this is one of the best and most authentic ways to experience the culture and the people of the country. It is usually inexpensive, with street food such as Senegal’s Accara costing less than a dollar.
Here’s a taste of some of the most popular African street food to discover during your travels.
Sardines – Morocco
Morocco is the world’s largest exporter of sardines, so it’s no surprise that spicy sardines are one of the country’s signature street food dishes. Known as Marrakech’s version of fish and chips, the sardines are spiced with a paste made from tomato, coriander, chili, garlic, paprika, cumin, olive oil and lemon juice then deep fried. It is served with bread, and the chips are optional. Morocco’s souks serves a variety of breads, most popularly beghrir, which is made similarly to crumpets, harsha, which is a buttery bread made of fine semolina and rghaif, which is a flaky and layered flat bread.
Dholl Puri – Mauritius
Mauritius has a diverse food culture, with culinary influences from its inhabitants of Creole, French, Indian and Chinese heritage. Dholl puris are popular on the island, so much so that it could be considered as the island’s national dish. The thin fried bread stuffed with ground yellow split peas, and served in a pair with bean curry, atchar and chutney is found in most street stalls on the island.
Chichinga – Ghana
Chichinga is said to be one of Ghana’s preferred street food, popularly loved for its tasty kebabs made from beef or sausages. Chichinga is made with suya (pronounced soya), and a hot, spicy peanut marinade infused with the main spices of ginger, garlic and chili is drizzled over any types of meat before being grilled until crisp and succulent. Sirloin steak is the recommended cut of red meat to use when making beef Chichinga, and it recommended that it be cooked medium to well. Chicken breasts are the preferred cut of meat when making chicken Chichinga.
Forodhani and Dafu – Zanzibar
Zanzibar is a haven for foodies as the culinary culture is infused with influences from African, Arab and Indian influences. The most popular Zanzibari street food dish is the Forodhani, and it is nicknamed as ‘Zanzibar pizza’. It’s a mixture of vegetables, egg and mayo (and meat if preferred) that are wrapped in very thin dough and then fried. It’s sold at many night market stalls in Stone Town. Young coconuts, known as Dafu, are popular snacks for the Zanzibari people. They are loved for their health benefits, including curing sunstroke and combating dehydration, and are easy to find on the island as salesmen can be found cycling everywhere on the island carting dafu.
Akara – Nigeria
Akara are deep fried bean cakes made with grounded beans mixed with pepper, onions and other spices. They are quite popular in Nigeria. They are light and protein-packed, making them the ideal snacks. They are best eaten with Agege bread, which is popular for its fluffy and soft texture and its versatility with different dishes such as stew. Most recipes advise using peeled brown beans, ground and blended with onions and spices to make Akara and vegetable or canola oil for deep frying.
Koshary, Taameya and Fuul Medammis – Egypt
Modern Egyptian cuisine is still influenced by its ancient history, which archeologists reveal countryside peasants and workers of the Great Pyramids of Giza lived off a diet consisting of bread, beer and onions. Koshary is the country’s most popular street-food, and it is considered to be quite filling as it consists mostly of carbohydrates. The meal is made of pasta, rice, lentils, chick peas, onions and garlic.
Taameya is also a common street food of Egypt, and even though it is served throughout the day, it is most eaten at breakfast. It is made of fava beans, and fuul medammis (also made of fava beans and cooked on a pot that sits on a fire) is usually eaten with it. The meal is considered to be very filling and will keep you energized for a long time as it takes a while to digest.
Potato Bhajia – Kenya
The potato bhajia is one of Kenya’s most popular street food, also popularly known as Aloo Pakodi bhajia, meaning battered potato, in Swahili. The bhajia is of Asian origin, being popular in India and Pakistan, and was introduced to Kenya by the Indian population that settled in the country.
In fact, quite a significant number of Kenyan dishes have Indian influences, such as samosas and kuku paka, which is coconut chicken curry. Bhajia consists of potatoes that are sliced up and battered with spices such as cumin seeds and turmeric before being deep fried. They are best served with Kenyan tomato salsa.
Accara – Senegal
Accara, which is a crispy black-eyed-bean fritter, usually served with a tomato-and-onion-based hot sauce called kaani, is popular in Senegal and other parts of West Africa. It is similar to the Brazilian acarajé fritter, and it is served on a crusty baguette with an oniony sauce.
Mozambican Prawns – Mozambique
Ask any traveller who has visited Mozambique about the food, and you’re bound to hear rave reviews about the French’s seafood. Most of its famous dishes revolve around seafood as the fishing industry accounts for over 80 percent of the country’s main exports. The taste of Mozambican cuisine is influenced by the Portuguese due to colonial ties with the country. Mozambican prawns are one of the popular dishes in the country, and they grilled or fried and spiced with a fiery peri peri sauce.
They are served with either French fries or rice. A popular dish that has no Portuguese influence such as the chili and peri peri spices is Matata, which is a seafood stew that is usually prepared with clams in a peanut sauce. Also popular are prego rolls (steak sandwiches) and peri peri chicken, which consists of chicken marinated in lemon juice, garlic and peri peri sauce and is usually eaten with potato fries.
Bunny Chow – South Africa
The South African bunny chow is a popular street snack that originated from Durban in the province of KwaZulu Natal and has been adapted by people to suit their different culinary tastes. The Durban bunny chow consists of hollowed bread that is filled with hot curry. Other variations include filling the bread with fried chips or anything you’d like!