Christmas is to Africans as Thanksgiving is to Americans. In Africa, the festive season is filled with strong, savoury, spices, and flavours from traditional dishes, bringing family, friends and loved ones together. Food is an essential element with a variety of unique snacks and meals placed at the Christmas table. Here are some indulgent traditional meals from around the continent.
Jollof Rice – West Africa
Popular in West Africa, jollof rice is a staple dish at celebrations and parties in countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. The party rice cooked with peppers, tomato, onions, and rich spices is not one to be missed. It is usually paired with fried plantains, chicken, goat meat, turkey, or beef. The iconic meal brings family and friends together in celebration throughout the year and thus has a special place on the Christmas dinner table as a main dish.
Nyama Choma (roasted meat in Swahilli) – Kenya (East Africa)
Nyama Choma an assortment of barbeque roasted meat is an immensely popular delicacy in Kenya. Otherwise referred to as the country’s official national food, it features roasted goat meat which is enjoyed throughout the country from restaurants to street food and at the dinner table. This delicacy can be found at any festive event, served with Ugali (cornmeal) and Kachumbari (fresh tomato and onion salad). One can be sure to find this roast served at Christmas bringing family and friends together in celebration.
Karkanji - Chad (Central Africa)
To accompany the Christmas feast tasty drinks and beverages are typically served. Chadians enjoy a traditional drink locally called Karkanji. This is a spicy tea made by boiling cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and the main ingredient hibiscus leaves. Rich in vitamin C, the drink can be served cold with ice or enjoyed hot. Made fresh the drink can be sweetened to satisfy both adults and children tastes. Variations of this drink are also enjoyed in other African countries, with different local names including Zobo (Nigeria), Bissap (Senegal) and Wanjo (Gambia).
Bamia (Okra with tomatoes) - Egypt (North Africa)
In North Africa, a region consisting of predominantly Islamic countries and where Christmas is not celebrated, traditional meals are still enjoyed during this festive period. Egyptians delight in Bamia (I.e., Okra in Arabic), a savoury stew made with Okra, tomatoes, onion, garlic, spices, and optional lamb meat. Packed with nutrients like fiber, calcium, and vitamin C, the dish is usually served with rice. This traditional dish is also popularly eaten in other countries including Sudan, Lebanon, and Greece, bringing friends and family together.
Malva Pudding - South Africa
After Christmas lunch is enjoyed and everyone is stuffed with a scrumptious meal, dessert is usually served. In South Africa, to end the feast on a sweet note their traditional Christmas pudding locally called Malva or Lekker pudding is enjoyed. The classic dessert is a sweet, fruity pudding made with apricot jam, sugar, and balsamic vinegar. Typically served hot a creamy custard or ice cream is enjoyed best with the dessert. One can be certain to find this treat at the Christmas table and many special events like weddings and parties bringing friends and family together. South African fine aged wine is also enjoyed as the country has a history of remarkable wine production.