I found food from Angola to be some of the most different so far from what I’m used to. I got to try red palm oil and okra for the first time, with just a little trepidation!
Angola is a country located on the west coast of the southern part of Africa. The region has been inhabited since the Paleolithic age, also known as the ‘Old Stone Age’, so it’s a country with a long history!
Angola was formed as a nation-state after the Portuguese established a colony there, beginning in the 16th century. The native people put up such a strong resistance that the country’s current borders were not established until the early 20th century.
After a long struggle, Angola became independent in 1975, but this was quickly followed by a civil war between three different factions. The war ended in 2002, and Angola has been relatively stable since then.
Today, Angola still shows strong signs of Portuguese influence. Portuguese is the official language, and there are obvious influences on the cuisine. Angola has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, though this growth is uneven. This means that for most Angolans, the standard of living is very low.
What Do People Eat in Angola?
Angolan cuisine is based on indigenous dishes that have been altered to include ingredients brought by the Portuguese colonists.
Rice, beans, chicken, pork, and fish are common, and a lot of dishes use tomato, garlic, and onion as a base. Red palm oil is popular for cooking and flavoring food; so is olive oil. A popular side dish is funge, which is cassava flour mixed with water.
Breakfast is usually simple, consisting of funge, fruit, eggs, coffee, and tea. I thought about composing an Angolan breakfast, but that was before I tried the funge for the first time…
What I Made
- Calulu and Funge (Fish Stew with Cassava Flour Mash)
- Camaro Grelhado Com Molho Cru (Grilled Prawns with Green Onion Sauce)
- Paracuca (Roasted Peanuts)
- Chicken Muamba (Chicken Stew)
Scroll down to read about other popular Angolan dishes I didn’t make!
Calulu and Funge (Fish Stew with Cassava Flour Mash)
There are two dishes here. First, there is the calulu, which is a stew consisting of fish, sweet potato leaves, vegetables, and red palm oil. I used the recipe from Travel Food Atlas. Since I was halving it and didn’t want a bunch of leftover eggplant when I needed so little, I omitted that. I also seem to have a problem finding non-baby spinach at the supermarket lately so I used kale instead.
This wasn’t exactly bad, but it didn’t seem to have much flavor. The red palm oil definitely has a smell which I can’t quite describe, and probably a flavor, but it didn’t taste very strong. This was my first time trying okra, and I’m not sure I really like it.
The second dish is funge (sometimes spelled ‘funje’), which is cassava flour mixed with boiling water so that it forms a strange glue-like mass. It doesn’t sound appetizing, and honestly, it was so much like glue, that even though it didn’t actually have much flavor of its own, I found it really off-putting. It is, however, very popular in Angola and a common component in most meals. If you want to try it for yourself, I followed the traditional method described on Foreign Fork. I found the mixture thickened pretty quickly and became really hard to stir, and I didn’t quite get it completely smooth, but maybe you’ll have better luck.
Camaro Grelhado Com Molho Cru (Grilled Prawns with Green Onion Sauce)
There’s not much need for explanation here. Prawns, or shrimp, are brushed with a vinegary green onion sauce and then grilled. I don’t have a proper grill so I baked them for 5 minutes, which worked well.
Although these were alright, I felt there was something missing, and then I realized there was no oil in the sauce. That may have been just what this dish needed to be really good. I got this recipe from 196 Flavors. I made the sauce in my food processor and used large shrimp, rather than the jumbo that would usually be used, since that is what I had.
Paracuca (Roasted Peanuts)
Roasted peanuts are common in Angola, and they can be either sweet or savory. I chose to make sugared peanuts, and I added some cinnamon. They came out well though I had to decrease the roasting time in the recipe by quite a lot. I’m assuming the recipe, from Taste of Home, wanted raw peanuts, and mine were already roasted. I’d specifically chosen this recipe because it wasn’t asking for raw peanuts though. Either way, it’s pretty hard to go wrong with something this simple.
Chicken Muamba (Chicken Stew)
Chicken muamba is a popular chicken stew in Angola, and is often considered the country’s national dish. It consists of chicken pieces and various vegetables, including okra for thickening, and is flavored with red palm oil, garlic, tomato, and onions. After the calulu I was a bit wary of this, because I’m not sure I am a fan of okra. But I made it anyway, and I was pleasantly surprised. This was definitely foreign tasting, to me, but it was actually pretty good.
I got this recipe from African Bites and the only change I made was to use bone-in chicken thighs rather than cut up a whole chicken, and to sub a habanero pepper for the Scotch bonnet since that was what was available.
As you can see, I decided to pair this with rice rather than make more funge, which had been my original plan.
Other Popular Angolan Dishes
- Catatos – a dish made by frying caterpillars with garlic, though there are variations. It’s often served over rice.
- Chikuanga – a traditional bread made from cassava flour. The dough is wrapped in cassava leaves and boiled before serving.
- Cocada amarela – a pudding or custard served as a dessert, made from eggs and coconut.
You can probably tell that this wasn’t my favorite country so far. Although the red palm oil does have a distinct smell, I’m not sure I can pin down what it really tastes like with the other flavors happening. But I don’t think it was offensive. I think okra is weird and maybe just not for me, but I didn’t hate it in the chicken muamba and I still have like half a bag in the freezer, so I will be using it again at some point. The chicken muamba was the clear winner this week and I may even make it again some day.
Next week, I will be cooking food from my first Caribbean country, Antigua and Barbuda.