As ethnic fare continues on a strong trajectory, the popularity of West African cuisine across the U.S. grows. The National Restaurant Association placed West African cuisine/flavors second in its global flavors ranking in its What’s Hot 2019 culinary forecast. These foods appeal to those seeking traditional dishes of the region made with authentic, spicy and healthy ingredients, some more familiar than others.
West African Equipment and Supplies
- Open fire pit: Authentic West African dishes are commonly prepared over an open fire pit with live flames.
- Cast-iron pots: Cooks often use these when cooking over open fire pits for stews and soups. These pots can serve as Dutch ovens or fry pots, too.
- Mortar and pestle: This traditional tool grinds dried spices into blends, seasonings, pastes and condiments for a variety of West African dishes.
Localized Flavors and Dishes:
- Ghana: ginger and maize
- Senegal: peanuts, millet, tamarind, baobab fruit
- Guinea: boiled mango, fried plantain, sesame cookie, fufu (a cooked dough)
- Ivory Coast: maffe/sauce d’arachide (meat in peanut sauce), fried or mashed plantains, attiéké (side dish made from cassava)
There are a number of foods and dishes originating from Africa that have become staples in America. These include:
- Black-eyed peas
- Rice pudding
Source: Demand Africa
5.2%: The estimated percent of U.S. restaurant menus that will feature African cuisine by 2023. That does not represent a drastic uptick from the 4.9 percent menu penetration reported for 2019.
Concept Close-Up: Yassa African Restaurant, Chicago
Owned and operated by Madieye and Awa Gueye since 2004, Chicago’s Yassa Restaurant honors food from their heritage as part of the Wolof Tribe of Senegal. Honoring Jamaican and Asian influences, dishes include yassa lamb, stews, and grilled shrimp and fish. Here, Awa offers some insight into African cuisine.
Q: Are you seeing increased popularity in West African food?
A: Yes, it has become more popular; we are increasingly busy.
Q: What do you attribute the trend in West African cuisine to?
A: The taste and flavor of the dishes is only found in West Africa. It’s about the way the fish is prepared whole and fresh, the unique spicy profile and how so many different ingredients are put together for each dish.
Q:What are your most popular dishes?
A: We sell the most of our yassa fish, lamb and chicken. Also maffe, a peanut butter stew cooked with meat, potatoes, carrots and yucca. It was recognized by a local TV station as the best use of peanut butter in a dish.