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Angola - Cooking and Food
Overview of Angolan Cuisine History
Angola is a country in southwestern Africa surrounded by Namibia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and the Atlantic Ocean on the western side. A former colony of Portugal, Angola has had a turbulent history, culminating with the 27 years long civil war that has ended four years ago. Because Angola was a colony of Portugal for many years, Angolan cuisine owes much to that of Portugal. The Portuguese influence upon Angolan cuisine was subtle but pervasive. They occupied Angola in the late 15th century and retreated in 1957. The Portuguese brought the European sense of flavouring with spices and techniques of roasting and marinating to the traditional Angolan foods. These influences blended with the local cuisine and produced interesting new recipes. There are some differences between the ingredients used in the cuisine of the coast of Angola and those used in the continental cuisine. However, Angola is a large country with many regional flavours and ethnic cultures, but one of the elements they have in common is the fact that Angolans like their food spicy. Angolan cuisine is varied and tasteful, with local dishes based mainly on fish, cassava products and spicy stews.
Cuisines of Angola
Angola is a large country that has eighteen provinces that are very different in terms of specific foods and cuisine. For example, the province of Bengo was the birth place for one of the most popular Angolan dishes, Kakusso while in the province of Cabinda, separated from the rest of Angola, the Congo influences affected the traditional cuisine. Another special cuisine is that found in the province of Huila, where the Buchiman tribes reside. Their food is very different from the rest of Angola and the cuisine has not changed in the last 1000 years. The waters off the coast of Naimbe province are the home of crabs and mussels, as well as many other types of sea food. That is why in this province the most used ingredient is fish. In the villages situated in Central Angola, the meals are prepared with milk, curds and whey. Many dishes consist of steamed or boiled green vegetables, peas, beans, and cereals. Starchy cassava, yams, and sweet potatoes round out a daily diet. There are four major ethnic groups in Angola and each of them has its own traditional cuisine. The Ovimbundu reside in the central highlands and south eastern parts of Angola. The Ovimbundu are traditionally farmers and therefore the main ingredients used are cassava, maize and massambala. The Kimbundu lives in and around Luanda and to the east. Their prolonged contact with Portuguese colonial rulers influenced their cuisine, making it very similar to the Portuguese cuisine. The Bakongo, are usually concentrated in the northwest, and areas adjacent to the Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Cabinda Province. Some of the most popular dishes here are Doro Wat (a Chicken stew) and Nitter Kibeh (a buttery sauce). The Lunda and Chokwe occupy the northeastern sector of Angola, with branches also in Democratic Republic of Congo. Their cuisine is very similar to that in Congo, with dishes such as Muamba Nsusu and Mbika with meat. The cuisine of Angola can be called a ‘rainbow cuisine’ because it has integrated influences from India, Malaya and Europe. The food is a blend of many cultures in most regions of Angola.
Preparation Methods for Angolan Cooking
Cooking techniques in Angolan cuisine often include combining fish and meat. Flaked and dried fish is sometimes cooked with Chicken, yam, onions, various spices and water to prepare a flavoured stew or fried in oil. Eggs and Chicken, as well as seafood are preferred. Cooking is done in multiple ways such as roasting, baking, boiling, mashing, and spicing. Such ingredients as cassava, Peanut, and chilli pepper arrived along with the slave trade in the 15th century and they influenced very much the Angolan cuisine but not so much the preparation methods, which remained mostly traditional. The most used ingredients used in the Angolan cuisine include cassava and plantains. cassava plants are mostly consumed as cooked greens. The most traditional meats that are still consumed in some parts of Angola are those hunted in the forests (crocodile, monkey or warthog).
Special Equipment for Angolan Cooking
The Angolan cooking does not require any special equipment. However, a stew pan is essential. You will also need storage containers for the condiments and a large sauce pot.
Even if the Angolan food is so diverse, the cooking methods and equipment are basic ones. If you decide to cook a dish from the Angolan cuisine, the main challenge will be finding the right ingredients. You can use as cooking equipment the dishes you normally use.
However, there are some rare and exotic recipes that belong to the tribal cuisine and which need some special equipment to prepare. Of course, you can use your normal cooking tools, but the taste just wouldn’t be the same. Some of them are the traditional mud oven used to cook bread, the three cooking stones (set to form a triangle) used to bake bread or cakes and the kerosene stove, which has the main advantage that it cooks the food very fast, but it releases a strong odour. A traditional cooking tool is the charcoal burner. The charcoal is placed on top of a grill and a pot is then placed on top. There are holes on the plate for letting the ash fall into the lower compartment. The charcoal is lit by placing papers and sticks in the lower compartment. Once the fire has lighted, the small door in the lower compartment is closed. This kind of cooking stove is preferred because it doesn't produce constant smoke like the cooking stones.
Angolan Food Traditions and Festivals
After decades of civil war, Angola is picking up the pieces and rebuilding the country. Because few years have passed from the end of the civil war, there isn’t yet any important food festival celebrated here. Because of the famine that is still haunting most of the country, food traditions are rarely celebrated. One of the most loved festivals is Island Party which is celebrated for two days in November. The purpose of this celebration is to protect the Isle of Luanda from sinking and people from drowning. People throw fruits or even cooked dishes in the water and offer prayers. The public holidays are: the National Holyday (February 4), New Year’s Day, Victory Day (March 27), Workers Day (May 1), National Hero’s Day, MPLA Foundation Day and Family Day (December 25). There are some holidays which are not officially recognized, yet celebrated by many people (Youth Day, Armed Forces Day, and Pioneers' Day).
People in Angolan Food
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One of the best known Angolan desserts, cocada amarela shows the extent to which the Angolan chefs have taken the art of cooking in their quest for a flavour that combines the traditional African ingredients with the European taste. The main ingredients of this dish are cloves, Sugar, coconut, egg yolks and cinnamon.
Unfortunately, due to the conflicts and wars that Angola has gone trough, there are not many Angolan chefs. However, other chefs around the world got inspired by the Angolan cuisine and began expanding it and familiarizing the public with the wonderful flavoured Angolan dishes.
The typical Angolan meal consists of a starchy food such as rice, yams or flour cooked into porridge. When a meal consists of meat, the tradition requires that the men and the elderly receive the biggest portions. The men in the Angolan families make beer from honey and from such grains as maize or millet. They also make wine from the sap of certain kinds of palm trees. Usually, in most ethnic groups in the Angolan society, it is considered very impolite to refuse the food that is offered to you. This is considered a sign of disrespect. The tradition requires that the women are the ones who cook all the food and the men in charge with providing the beverages for the meal.