About the Food of Burundi

Fishermen on Lake Tanganyika. Photo courtesy of Francesca Ansaloni

Nestled up to the largest lake in the world, Lake Tanganyika, is the tiny country of Burundi. There, amidst the rolling hills and the lush tropics, live a people surviving on a simple bounty of beans, bananas, plantains, maize (corn), cassava, sweet potato, and peas. Peek under the lid of any Burundian pot, and you'll likely find red kidney beans. Cooked simply with a little red palm oil, onion, and spicy chili powder, the nutrient rich bean becomes a delight.  To avoid monotony, many … [Read more...]

Monday Meal Review: Burkina Faso

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"The smell is making my eyes water. One bite, and I can't get the flavor out of my mouth! It's like I'm still eating it. That counts, right?" Keith looked at me with his best puppy dog eyes. And, since his eyes are hazel, he didn't look much like a puppy. "Just eat half of it," I said. "I can't," he replied, turning his plate so the Babenda was as far away as possible. I kept eating, thinking about how fishy the Babenda tasted. Maybe he would eat some more of the unusual West … [Read more...]

Recipe: Iced Hibiscus Drink with Fresh Pineapple (Bissap a la Bonne Dame)

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Makes 1.75 liters (plus the pineapple) Chilled hibiscus tea is light and refreshing. The natural floral tang is a wonderful counterpart to sweet pineapple chunks. Kids will love fishing out the fruit in this totally and wonderfully decaffeinated iced tea. VARIATION: Some recipes call for equal parts lemonade to hibiscus tea. We tried this "pink lemonade" and loved it! Ingredients: small handful hibiscus flowers (or 4 teabags) 6 cups boiling water 4 cups ice 1 pineapple, … [Read more...]

Recipe: Spiced Lamb Kabobs (Brochettes)

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Serves 4 Borasheht (or brochettes/kabobs) can be any sort of skewered meat. In our recipe, tender pieces of lamb are marinated in a spicy sauce. As you bite into the lamb,  your mouth fills with a hint of cinnamon and garlic, mild tang from the vinegar, and a steady, creeping burn from the cayenne (about mild, on my scale). NOTE: If you would like some extra heat on the side, try our Kan Kan Kan spice blend, popular in Burkina Faso. Ingredients: 1/2 tsp paprika 1/2 tsp … [Read more...]

Recipe: Spiced Peanut Powder (Kan Kan Kan)

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Makes about 1/2 cup This is my own version of the jarred Kan Kan Kan spice blend popular in Burkina Faso. The raw peanut powder offers a slight grassy flavor, dominated by heat from the chili powder and saltiness from the bouillon. Try with our Grilled Lamb Brochettes. While the jarred stuff alleges to be an aphrodisiac, I happened upon the description of this spice blend on an expat blog which - unfortunately -I can no longer track down. I mixed it together to taste. If you want the … [Read more...]

Fun Fact Friday: Burkina Faso (with poll)

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Happy Friday! I'm craving a giant slice of chocolate cake. But enough about me, let's talk about Burkina Faso! Most meals in the villages are shared out of a single pot (true family style) and the right hand is used to scoop up the food. The cities eat European style - fork, knife, spoon, plate. Frog and toad meat is eaten "dried or fried" in Burkina Faso, with hundreds of frogs laid out to dry in the hot African sun (Photographs are available to view on National Geographic,  Fried … [Read more...]

Recipe: Babenda

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If you enjoy the flavor of funky blue cheese, dried or smoked fish, and bitter greens, then Babenda is for you! I know. I'm asking a lot. Although we might be a select group of people with such accommodating palates, this one pot meal is a common staple in Burkina Faso. Babenda is like a jazz orchestra in the mouth, making wild taste sensations and pungent high notes meander whimsically through mouth and home. Ingredient Overview: The Greens: Any bitter greens can be used for … [Read more...]

About the Food of Burkina Faso

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Burkina Faso is a dizzying landscape of dusty red plains and grassy savannas, broken up by stunning rock formations that tower above the ground. The culinary landscape of Burkina Faso is similar - plain, sparse even - with the occasional burst of unexpected flavor. Let me explain. Most meals are centered around pieces of Tô, a firm ball of white starch made with millet, sorghum, or corn. These bland balls are wonderfully adaptive because they take on the flavor the broths, soups, and … [Read more...]