Abidjan is arguably one of the most beautiful cities in West Africa, and perhaps Africa. The elegance that this city exudes is represented in the neatly paved streets, the gloriously brightnightlife economy empowered by an uninterrupted power supply, the blissfulness of having potable water flowing in every tap unhindered, the rich cultural heritage, exquisite architecture, the gracefully hospitable people amongst a myriad of other features that make Abidjan a choice destination for the festive season.
One remarkable attribute of the Ivorian people is their hospitable nature and their exquisite cuisine. As such, what is Christmas in Abidjan without good food? Let us take a dive intosome Ivorian cuisines you should try out this season.
Côte d'Ivoire's cuisine is diverse due to the country's approximately 60 ethnic groups. Each group has developed a diet that fits their lifestyle. The Agni and Abron tribes subsist by producing cocoa and coffee. The Senufo peoples dwell in the country's northern savanna (treeless plain). They farm rice, yams, peanuts, and millet (a type of grain). Senufos often eat rice with a spicy peanut sauce. The Dioula in the far northwest rely on rice, millet, and peanuts to thrive, but the Kulango of the north, who are primarily farmers, cultivate yams, maize, peanuts, and watermelons. Those who live near the seaside enjoy a broad range of seafood.
Despite different diets and culinary practices, the people of Côte d'Ivoire usually depend on grains and tubers (root vegetables) to complement a diet. Yams, plantains (similar to bananas), rice, millet, maize, and peanuts (known as groundnuts in Africa) are basic foods across the nation. Most meals include at least one of them. The national food is fufu (FOO-fue), plantains, cassava, or yams mashed into a sticky dough and eaten with kedjenou, seasoned meat (typically chicken) and vegetable sauce. It is often eaten with the hands, rather with utensils, as with other meals. Kedjenou is most often made with peanuts, eggplant, okra, or tomatoes. Attiéké (AT-tee-eck-ee) is a popular side dish. It's a porridge prepared from grated cassava, similar to the small pasta grains of couscous.
Chicken and fish are popular among Ivoirians who can afford them. The majority of the people, on the other hand, like an abundance of vegetables and grains complimented by different sauces. Hot peppers are used to enhance the tastes of a variety of spicy meals, notably soups and stews. Fresh fruits are the traditional dessert, frequently accompanied with bangui (BAN-kee), a native white palm wine or ginger beer. Children like soft beveragessuch as Youki Soda, a somewhat sweeter variation of tonic water.
An outdoor market, a street seller, or a maquis, a restaurant peculiar to Côte d'Ivoire, are often the finest places to enjoy the country's traditional food. These low-priced outdoor eateries are popping up all across the nation and are becoming more popular. The restaurant must offer braised cuisine to be classified as a maquis (food that has been cookedover a low fire). The most regularly braised foods are chicken and fish, which are typically served with onions and tomatoes. Rice, fufu, attiéké, and kedjenou are also available.
3 Ivorian Meals to try out this season
1). Foufou: The term “fufu” is not unique to only the Ivorians, as there are other west African countries that have a meal known as fufu, especially Nigeria. However, the Ivorian fufu is completely different. It is usually made with plantain, oil, and salt. Fufu can be made with ripe plantain or unripe plantain, depending on your preference. It is an indigenous meal of the Adjoukrou and Abrie tribes. Fufu is served with light soup
To make your fufu, all you need is plantain, salt, and palm oil;
- Wash the plantains thoroughly and peel them
- Place the peeled plantains in a pot of boiling water, add salt to taste, and let it cook for 25-30 minutes
- Place the cooked plantain in a mortar and pound gently until it forms a consistent mold
- When the plantain is properly and smoothly crushed, add some palm oil and gently pound it so the oil mixes properly with the crushed plantain mould
- The oil gives the fufu an alluring red color
- After pounding, the fufu is molded by hand into small balls
- Serve with light soup
Another meal that is close to the “foufou” is what Ivorians call the “foutou”. Foutou is madewith cassava and plantain, pounded together. The foutou requires more energy than foufou, because of the hardness of the cassava and the strength it takes to pound it to achieve a smooth mould. Just like the foufou, some palm oil is also added while pounding, to give it that shiny and alluring red color and texture. The foutou is served with either “sauce graine” (loosely translated as palm kernel soup or what Nigerians refer to as banga soup) or “sauce arachide” (groundnut soup). You can as well try it with any typical swallow soup of your choice.
2). Attieke: This is the most popular meal among the people of Ivory Coast. One can even call it a national treasure, a discovery, the people’s delight. Attieke, for context, can be loosely described as “cassava couscous”. It looks somehow like garri, but the grains are not as dry or smooth, they are moist and softer. Attieke is made from fermented cassava grains and it is usually processed and sold as “attieke”. To make the attieke itself from scratch is an industrious venture, hence it is advised you buy the attieke. The magic is in its preparation, the sides, and the accompanying ingredients. Ivorians tend to be very creative with attieke, as they can either serve it with grilled chicken, porc au foux, fried or grilled fish (this is the most common and indigenous). There are two variations of the attieke. On the streets, there is a variation known as the “garba”, which is the very local, simplistic, and very cheap way of eating it, however some prefer to take the garba. The tush variation is simply called attieke. It is that variation you can get creative with by adding enough vegetables, mayonnaise, grilled fish or chicken, sauce and a bottle of chilled drink to step down. BBC news once described attieke as the Ivorian answer to champagne.
- 1 bag of attiéke about 1 lb.
- 1 Tablespoon vinegar
- 2 Maggi or stock cubes
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
· Place the attiéké in a metal bowl then place in a steamer basket and steam until all thewater has been absorbed.
· Now remove from the steamer and work the attiéké with a fork to break up any clumps.
· Return to the steamer and cook for about 10 minutes more.
· Turn the attiéké into a bowl and work with a fork to break up all the clumps (if theclumps do not break up, then it has not cooked enough.
· Steam for a further 10 minutes.
· Continue with this process until the attiéké is fluffy and cooked but not sloppy (itshould look like couscous or grits).
· Once it is done, turn into a large bowl and work in the vinegar, crumbled Maggi cubesand olive oil. To serve, turn the attiéké onto a dish and garnish with a little diced tomato andthin slivers of sliced onion.
The attieke is usually accompanied by fried or grilled tilapia or tuna fish or fried or grilledchicken. you can also add fried plantains based on preference.
3). Kedjenou: Kedjenou, pronounced as (KED-gen-ooh), is the flagship dish of Côte d’Ivoire. The word “Kedjenou” comes from the Baoulé ethnic group, and in their language it means “to move or shake”. So Kedjenou is meat cooked and braised in a sealed pot, traditionally a clay terracotta pot called a “canari”. The clay pot remains closed throughout the cooking so all the flavors remain intact, and meat and vegetables are cooked in their own steam and juices. Little or no other liquid is usually added and that helps build concentrated flavors. The canari is shaken from time to time to prevent the food from burning and sticking to the bottom. This cooking technique is very similar to the North African tajine style. Kedjenou can be made with a variety of meats like chicken, pork, beef, and even seafood. But Kedjenou chicken, or Kedjenou de Poulet, is more popular and you will certainly find it on the menus of their maquis, small open-air restaurants unique to Côte d’Ivoire. Every family has their special take on this favorite stew. What remains constant is the hotness that they get from those cute little hot peppers.
Vegetables (onions, green onions, tomatoes, bell peppers (green, yellow, and red), andeggplants
Aromatics (Ginger and Garlic)
Hot peppers (habanero or scotch bonnets)
Thyme (preferably fresh)
Salt and fresh cracked pepper
Chicken bouillon cube
- Combine all ingredients in a large cooking pot.
- Stir well until everything is combined
- Seal the pot with some heavy-duty aluminum foil
- Put on the tight-fitting lid
- Cook on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes then turn it down to low.
- Shake the pot without removing the lid every 15 minutes
- Cook for 1 1/2 hours and then check for to see if the meat is cooked, if not continue cooking until done.
- Serve with Attieke or rice, Enjoy!
This season, try something new. Christmas is only complete when it features sumptuous meals. Imagine what your dining will look like with a sizzling pot of hot kedjenou and attieke on the side, or a relish foutou meal with sauce graine. Maybe you will satisfy your sweet cravings with foufou and light soup. Whichever one you chose, we wish you a most blissful Christmas.