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10 Foods from the African Diaspora
Our people are expansive, and just like us, our cuisine is not a monolith. The worldly palate of our diaspora contains an array of flavors and textures. What ties them all together is the historic African influence on its tastes—because we’re just that fire. Our people have created dishes so popular, you’d be remiss not to have heard of them. But if you didn’t know, you gon’ learn today. Here are the 10 most popular foods from across the African diaspora.
Fufu + hot pepper soup = Brothers for Life. We’ve all seen the loveable Ghanian soup accompaniment (disrespectfully) strewn around Tiktok by first-time eaters, but real ones know how to respectfully show fufu some love.
Fried Plantain (U.S.)
Is fried plantain breakfast? Dessert? A side dish? It’s everything, and we love it for that. A good fried plantain will leave your stomach and your mind at ease.
With the colder months setting in, nothing hits like a Brazilian seafood stew. Moqueca is the queen of Brazilian stews and a staple of Afro-Brazilian culture. Simple, spicy, and filling, its blend of fish, onions, garlic, bell peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, and coconut milk puts chicken noodle soup to shame.
Ackee and Saltfish (Jamaica)
Most non-Jamaicans believe that ackee resembles scrambled eggs—but it’s nothing of the sort and don’t you forget it! Ackee is a savory fruit that is paired with salted cod to create a flavor both balanced and bold. The fruit actually has a pretty bland taste that absorbs whatever flavors and seasonings it's accompanied with, which usually includes scotch bonnet pepper, pimento seeds, onions, garlic, seasoning, and of course, saltfish. Then, that’s often paired with boiled banana, yam or dumpling, or fried dumpling. When ackee and saltfish enters the brunch menu, prepare for a mouth-watering explosion. Although it’s challenging to find fresh ackee outside of Jamaica—unless you have an aunty in Florida growing it on her tree in the backyard—there are canned options available that hit almost the same!
Peruvian ceviche (Peru)
Peruvian ceviche is the meal that tastes so good, it’s got a holiday named after it. Ceviche is reminiscent of the Hawaiian poke or Japanese sashimi, with raw fish marinated in key lime or lemon juice. What makes it distinctly Peruvian is the blend of chili peppers in the mix.
You can put ‘em in stew peas, over rice, and of course, plate ‘em with a side of fried plantain. The usually tough meat is softened through a one-pot marination and stewing process. One pot cooking rose to prominence as early as the mid-1500s and has been a staple ever since.
Egusi Soup (Nigeria)
Ever thought about what to do with the seeds of squash, melons, and gourds? Nigerians have found to dry and ground them into a soup, for one. The vegetarian soup is enhanced with a side of the aforementioned fufu to dip.
Egypt may not be the first destination in mind when you think of the Basbousa dessert, given its popularity in a number of other countries, like Turkey and Greece. But we, in fact, did that. However, like all great things, don’t rush the process. The simple dessert of batter and simple syrup does require a level of precision to get it just right.
Gumbo (New Orleans)
As you can see from this list, we love us some stew. Gumbo is especially spectacular because of its variety of cultural influences due to its creation by our formerly enslaved African ancestors, who came from diverse indigenous traditions. Really, you can put anything in your gumbo from shrimp to cajun chicken, as long as it's got the Creole holy trinity― celery, bell peppers, and onions.
Peri-peri chicken (South Africa)
The spice that has become synonymous with South African restaurant chain, Nando’s, seems to have been manufactured by the fast-food chain itself, the way folk talk about it. In fact, the spice was produced by Portuguese explorers on South African land. So you could say, peri-peri chicken is South Africa’s way of reclaiming their dish.