Just over a year ago, I looked at a map of Africa and thought: I’m screwed.
At the time, I’d already visited—or at least eyeballed—nearly every African restaurant in NYC. But there are roughly 50 countries in Africa, and I had only been able to find food from about a dozen of them within the city limits.
The sad truth is that I had pretty much given up on my dreams of inhaling food from every country in the world, simply because of the challenges of finding African food. I was still inhaling plenty of food, but I figured that I’d never even begin to approach country #160.
And then, thanks to the magic of Dave Cook’s Eating in Translation website and a well-timed tip from fellow chowhound Glendale is Hungry, I found out about the 2011 United Nations African Mothers Association (UNAMA) fundraiser, where I encountered food from 16 African nations, including 10 that had previously been un-findable in New York City. Thanks to UNAMA, my gluttonous goals no longer seemed impossible.
This year, UNAMA once again fed me some spectacular homemade African food for the incredibly reasonable price of $35, with all proceeds benefiting Hurricane Sandy relief. Sadly, I wasn’t able to attend the event in person, but my favorite technology entrepreneur generously agreed to act as my stunt-double. Aleks took tons of photos, met amazing event organizer (and professional caterer!) Eva Forson, and brought a monstrous tray of food home for me to eat the next day. And you know that few things make me happier than massive trays of African food, even if they’re leftover.
I’ll crash my own website if I try to describe every single African dish offered at the fundrasier, but here are a few highlights:
- Burkina Faso: riz harricot and sauce au poulet (chicken stew and rice cooked with beans)
- Gabon: fish pate and turkey pate
- Benin: delicious corn flour patties topped with a gentle tomato-based stew, vaguely resembling the excellent Angolan cou-cou from the 2011 event
- Niger: a wonderfully fluffy couscous with meat and vegetables
- Guinea-Bissau: goat stew with olives, tomatoes, potatoes, and parsley, served with mildly garlicky fried codfish cakes, which are always pretty awesome
- Sudan: kufta, which resemble heartily spiced, cigar-shaped meatballs
- South Africa: malva pudding, traditionally made from wine and apricot jam
- Ghana: plantain bread and stewed black-eyed peas
- Tanzania: chapati with a hearty meat stew
- Algeria: stewed vegetables, chickpeas, and meat, reminiscent of the tagine served in my favorite Algerian restaurant
- Angola: chicken-eggplant-okra stew
- Madagascar: the legendary banana donuts of Madagascar, along with a delicious but less-heralded chicken and green peppercorn stew
I’ll be honest: by eating leftovers more than 24 hours after the event, I missed out on the full awesomeness of the African feast. Fufu, for example, really isn’t as appealing when it’s been microwaved. The same is true of the Gabonese fish pate, which had a wonderfully nuanced flavor, but probably had a better texture when it was fresh. That’s my fault.
But you can never go wrong with Ghanaian plantain bread, Nigerien (not to be confused with Nigerian) couscous, or Bissau-Guinean goat stew, even when it’s a day or two old. Heck, you can never go wrong with monstrous quantities of homemade African food under any circumstances, but especially if it’s for a good cause. See you in 2013, UNAMA.