International Cooking: Food from Guinea-Bissau

This was another difficult week due to the scarcity of information on Guinea-Bissauan food. I did get a few responses from Reddit, but they didn’t mention any dishes I was not already considering making, except for one which I knew I would not be able to obtain the ingredients for.

Guinea-Bissau is a small West African country, located on the coast. It was once part of a kingdom called Kaabu, parts of which lasted until the 18th century. Portugal began colonizing the land piece by piece, until the 19th century when the whole country was under Portuguese rule. It was then known as Portuguese Guinea.

In 1973, the country declared independence, though it was not recognized until the following year. Bissau, the name of the capital city, was added to the country’s name to differentiate it from its neighbor, Guinea (Guinea was previously French Guinea, but gained independence earlier so they got to just be Guinea).

Guinea-Bissau has endured political turmoil, with an attempted coup as recently as February last year. The GDP per capita and Human Development Index are among the lowest in the world, and more than two-thirds of the population currently lives below the poverty line.

What Do People Eat in Guinea-Bissau?

Dishes in Guinea-Bissau are often based on a range of vegetables and legumes, as well as fish and and chicken, though it depends on what is available as food insecurity is an issue.

Many dishes are served with rice, which is common on the coast, or millet, which is more popular inland.

Guinea-Bissau grows cashews and peanuts, which are exported. Coconuts, palm nuts, and olives are also grown and feature in dishes.

The dish I was recommended on Reddit but which I didn’t make was caldo de tchebem, which is a stew made from palm nuts, something I can’t really get here!

What I Made

Camarões à Guineense (Shrimp with Cucumber and Onion)

Camarões à Guineense (Shrimp with Cucumber and Onion)

This is a simple dish, made by sautéing onions in a little oil, then adding shrimp and julienned cucumber. Lemon juice, salt, and chili (I used chili flakes) are added to season, and that’s it! This is commonly served over rice.

I was aware before this of dishes that involve cooking cucumber, but this was my first time trying it and I was a little apprehensive. This dish tasted good though; and I honestly didn’t really notice the cucumber since it blended in with the onions.

If you’d like to make this, the recipe I used is from Travel By Stove.

Caldo de Mancarra (Chicken and Peanut Stew)

Caldo de Mancarra (Chicken and Peanut Stew)

Caldo de mancarra is Guinea-Bissau’s national dish and is just one of many popular stews in the country. It is traditionally made with chicken, but other kinds of meat can also be used, even shrimp, which is what was used in the recipe I followed. I actually went with chicken instead, but used this particular recipe since a few people on Reddit said it was a good one.

To start, I cut up some chicken thighs and sautéed the pieces in oil. Then I removed them from the pan and started cooking the onions. Once the onions were soft, I added some green bell pepper and chili flakes and after a few more minutes, I returned the chicken to the pan.

Meanwhile, I blended up some tomatoes, peanut butter, and chicken broth, and poured the mixture into the pan. I cooked this for a few minutes, then turned off the heat and stirred in some lime juice.

I served this with rice. I was meant to sprinkle some crushed peanuts over the top but I forgot! I’m sure that would have helped to improve the presentation, but regardless of how it looked, this was pretty delicious.

I used the recipe from Viva Happy; I just used chicken instead of shrimp so I also changed the steps a bit to ensure the chicken would be cooked through.

Cafriela de Frango (Grilled Chicken with Chili, Garlic, Lemon, and Onion)

Cafriela de Frango (Grilled Chicken with Chili, Garlic, Lemon, and Onion)

This dish is made by grilling chicken which has been marinated in lemon juice, onion, garlic, and chili. In Guinea-Bissau, malagueta peppers would be used, but I used serrano chilies since they were easier for me to obtain. I did only use about half the amount called for in the recipe since I thought it would be too hot for me otherwise.

I have found I prefer to have a bit of oil in a marinade like this, so I added that with the other ingredients and let the chicken marinate for a few hours. I then browned the chicken thighs on both sides in a skillet, before adding the remaining marinade and onions. I let everything simmer (with the lid on) until the chicken was cooked through.

I served this with rice and garlicky green beans. The rice would be a common accompaniment in Guinea-Bissau but I’m not sure about the beans; I just had some sitting in the fridge that I needed to use.

This was alright, but I think there was a bit too much lemon (the marinade liquid is basically all lemon juice).

The recipe I used is from Margarita’s International Recipes.

Final Thoughts

This week was okay; my favorite dish was probably the caldo de mancarra.

Next week, I will be cooking food from Guyana.

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