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November 6, 2016

Make Your Own African Night Market Dishes

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So the first African Night Market was October 22. The weather was horrid but the turnout was high.

First, a little bit of background: the event was hosted by Ghanaians at Cornell, and many students from different African countries contributed their culinary expertise by offering to cook a dish for the event. The efforts started weeks ago, when the group had to undergo training for safety in food handling.

According to Mawuena Ofei ’18, who helped cook chicken khebab, most of the spices used in these dishes were contributed by the participants. For example, in the chicken khebab, an assortment of Ghanaian spices and what is referred to as pepper powder were used to marinate the skewered meat.

Though I can’t get to all of the dishes featured at African Night Market, I’ve taken care to put together some popular home recipes so you can try them out at home! You can add your own twist as well. Are you ready?

Chapati (Kenya/Tanzania/India)

Chapati is a basically a flat bread popular in India and East Africa. Though all styles of Chapati share Indian roots (after all, the word chapat means flat in Hindu), they are slightly different. A quick and easy way to make Chapati can be summed up in a few steps:

  1. Use your hands to mix around one cup of atta flour, or just all-purpose flour, with two tbsp of vegetable oil, until it’s crumbly.
  2. Gradually add water to the bowl, the amount depending on how hard or soft you want the dough to be. Knead the dough and apply some oil to prevent sticking.
  3. Roll the dough flat, let it sit and then cook on medium-high for around one minute on each side or until golden brown.

I found this video on how to make a Chapati layered. Check it out!

Jollof rice (Ghana/Nigeria/Liberia)

Jollof rice is immensely popular, especially in Ghana and Nigeria. This was my favorite dish of the night, and everyone I know appreciated it too. It is definitely not an “acquired taste” at all. This savory red rice dish gives off an enticing aroma and you pretty much get what you put into it: rice. There are tons of variations and everybody cooks it differently. I’m shooting for simplicity in the following recipe:

  1. Add oil to a pot and when hot, stirfry the aromatics over medium-high heat for two or three minutes, until fragrant. Add shallots, ginger, garlic paste, diced chili — you name it. If you want to cook meat for stock, do so now.
  2. Using a blender, make a purée from tomatoes, adding Scotch Bonnet Pepper, onions and some bell peppers.
  3. Add the purée to the aromatics and stir in a rice. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat.
  4. The rest is easy: cover the pot and let the rice simmer and absorb the aroma until al dente.

Here’s a neat video on how to cook jollof rice.

Chicken Khebab

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Chicken Khebab is popular all over the world and it’s so easy to make. It serves well with rice and makes for a tasty entrée for a dinner party.

  1. Make the marinade. Add something that thickens, like yogurt, so the chicken doesn’t dry out. Add other things to suit your taste, like lemon juice, cayenne pepper, paprika, etc.
  2. Cut boneless chicken thigh into small pieces. Many people recommend chicken thigh over chicken breasts, as the latter can quickly become very chewy.
  3. Thread the meat and some colorful veggies (bell peppers, onions) on skewers and marinate in the fridge for a few hours.
  4. Preheat the grill, then grill the chicken until golden brown and black crusts can be seen.

Many chicken khebab recipes can be found online.

I’m not an expert in African cuisine, which is as diverse as one can imagine, but chances are if you are reading this, you are also curious and would like to learn more. f you find my simplification atrocious, feel free to correct me by commenting or email.