Food is love, and it is a universal expression of culture, identity and affection. Africans love their food. Every time I tell someone here that I really like their local food, their faces light up and they tell me about all the other foods I have yet to try!
Food is managed in tribes, but since the independence of West African countries, they have started to mix the food, and to create a sort of variety, which didn’t exist until then. Still now, Ivoirian people proudly insist on having the most variety of all West African countries. This is mostly true, because of the waves of immigration from surrounding areas. People immigrate and bring their food and knowledge.
I have by far not tried everything on the market, but the most typical food is offered at every corner (literally, they have little stands where they sell food everywhere).
Willie and I went out to grab food at a place he knows in Cocody, not far from the school. Everything is prepared and fried fresh. Don’t be too picky on hygiene though 😉 The two little bowls of water are given to you to wash your hands before and after the meal, together with a tiny bag of detergent.
So what we have here is “Aloco” [‘a-lo-ko], fried Banana. It is super greasy and sweet, blending perfectly with the spiced meat, and turning your mealtime into a tasty and exotic pleasure. This time we had chicken, but the stands usually sell beef and fish as well. The second side dish is called “azzeke” [a-che-‘ke], made from cassava, sweet potato. It’s served grinded, and in small portions packed into sachés. Its taste is like potato, but a little bit sour. And, of course, everything is eaten with your hands! Super yummy!
To my own surprise, there are a few drinks as well, which are typical for the region. One is “Gnamnankou” [ja-‘mo:-ku:]. That stuff is intense. The yellow, milky liquid consists of sugar, jalapeno, and ginger. It’s served frozen, or at least cold. The first sip feels gentle at the beginning, but the spice burns down your throat seconds after. Together with the icy consistency – a perfectly refreshing drink. On the picture the drink is inside an industrial bottle, but it’s not produced in factories; so people “recycle” bottles of companies and sell it like that.
Drink number two: “Bissap” [‘bi-sap], a purple-red coloured beverage. When I asked what it was made of, mostly I was told “from a red flower” and that it was “good for your blood”. After some research I found out it was hibiscus! In Austria we make tea from it, but the plant is a slightly different one here. And it’s good for the blood: hibiscus is antihypertensive, meaning it regulates, reduces your blood pressure. The drink itself is too sugary for me, I can only enjoy it in the form of ice, served in the little sachés.
This is a typical meal we enjoy at school, where we have three ladies cooking for the kids and teachers every day. So we have fried fish, with azzeke, spices, and a sauce made from onions and tomatoes with palm oil.
Also at home with the family, I eat fish almost every day, with azzeke, rice, yam, cassava, and sometimes even fries.