Thursday, June 10, 2010

Angolan Food: Pearls of the Palate

Many storied travelers and cultural analysts have raved that, "Amongst Angola's greatest riches are encountered some real pearls for the palate. Angolan gastronomy is delicious and varied.”

The aspect of food and cuisine plays a significant part in defining Angola's collective identity as part of the ideology of nationalism; a country is supposed to have its own distinctive cuisine which all its citizens can enjoy together and yet claim as their own derivation.

In those countries which were part of the former Portuguese empire, such as Angola, cuisine has become an important part of the national culture. In examination of Angolan cuisine in detail, it is essential to recall the role played by the Portuguese in introducing new foodstuffs to Africa. Many of the common foods now eaten in Africa, for example manioc (cassava), maize, peppers, peanuts, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, beans and tomatoes, originated in the Americas and spread around the globe after Christopher Columbus discovered the New World in 1492.

Cherie Hamilton in her book Cuisines of Portuguese Encounters gives a wonderful example of the Portuguese contribution in spreading food culture. She follows the progress of dishes based on okra, a vegetable native to West Africa which the Portuguese first brought to Brazil.  There it resembled a local plant which was called caruru by the native Tupi-Guarani Indians, and an Afro-Brazilian shrimp and okra dish was concocted and named caruru. This dish was then brought back to Africa to become part of Angolan cuisine – the delicious calulu with okra cooked with either fish or meat.

Cabral’s recent Cozinha Tradicional de Angola is a more comprehensive cookery book and has recipes containing ingredients that are found in Angola, such as dinhungo (pumpkin or bottle gourd), but with suggestions as to substitutes that might be used in Europe – a large courgette in this instance. Another example is quizaca (manioc plant leaves) where spinach can be used instead.

Funge is a type of porridge made of corn or manioc which is eaten with meat and vegetable stews while muamba de galinha, variants of which are common to much of South West Africa, consists of chicken cooked in palm oil, onion, chilli, garlic and okra. This might be claimed as the national dish of Angola and will certainly be found in Angolan restaurants in Lisbon and elsewhere.

Compared with many other African nations, Angola does have a number of widely-accepted national dishes:
muamba de galinha, calulú and mufete, perhaps served with a toasted manioc meal.

Today, Portugal remains fascinated by the cuisine of its former empire and there are a number of websites on Lusophone gastronomy, including the Roteiro Gastrónomico de Portugal which is sponsored by winemakers, restaurants and food producers. This is a good place to look for recipes of many of these dishes. (Adapted from Sonangol Universo Magazine, Igor Cusack article author)


Josephina Finchworth said...

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muhammad said...

Great recipe! I am definitely gonna try it. I saw this competition that I think you would be just the right person for! It is about creating the national dish of your country. Would be awesome if you could be the representative for your country :) Thats the right chance to show your skills in Cooking for your Traditional Food. Here’s more info about it