After speaking with Angolan Chef Anselmo Silvestre about his homeland’s cuisine, I was excited to try it myself. Although much of the information online about Angolan food is written in Portuguese, I was able to find some guidance regarding popular dishes and corresponding recipes.
I found that Angolan cuisine largely consists of protein and vegetable filled stews eaten with a starch of some sort. In order to prepare for this culinary undertaking, I stocked up on ingredients such as palm oil, yellow onions, Roma tomatoes, peanut butter, okra, lemons, and fish (both fresh and smoked).
Four dishes in particular stood out to me:
- Muamba de Galinha (Chicken Stewed in Palm Oil)
- Mufete de Peixe (Roasted Fish)
- Calulu de Peixe (Fish Stew)
- Bolo de Ginguba (Peanut Sponge Cake)
Read on for my experiences cooking–and eating!–each of these dishes.
What is Angola’s National Dish? Muamba de Galinha
Muamba de Galinha is one of the most popular Angolan foods. In fact, it is often dubbed the country’s national dish. It translates to Chicken in Muamba (palm oil) sauce, as it is a chicken stew with palm oil, tomatoes, butternut squash, and okra. Palm oil is a popular base in West African stews given its vibrant red color and distinct flavor that enhances the taste of whatever you cook with it.
I was excited to make this dish. I referred to the advice Angolan Chef Anselmo Silvestre gave me as well as recipes such as this one from Immaculate Bites. It was absolutely delicious! I literally could not get enough of this stew, which was spicy, salty, and just addicting. Even my husband, who is not the biggest fan of chicken, loved it and asked for seconds.
Typically, Muamba de Galinha is served with funge, a cassava flour porridge, as the starch is a great vehicle for sopping up the flavorful sauce. However, I chose a side of jasmine rice instead because I love stew on a bed of rice.
Mufete de Peixe
While I admit to being a little squeamish when working with whole fish that still have their heads and tails, I’m getting better. Moreover, there is just something about the flavor of seafood from the fish market that is often superior to that of the pre-frozen, filleted fish typical of the grocery store.
Mufete de Peixe is definitely a dish worth setting aside my fear of fish eyes for. It consists of grilled whole fish, typically tilapia, stuffed with lemons, onions, and spices. The fresh taste definitely transported me to the West African coast.
Typically, Mufete de Peixe is served with Feijão de óleo de palma (palm oil beans) as well as boiled plantain, sweet potatoes, and cassava. The combination of the beans, sweet potato and roasted fish was a delicious bite.
The History Behind Angolan Food: Calulu de Peixe
Calulu de peixe, translated as fish stew, is an Angolan food that embodies the history of the African Diaspora. Angola was colonized by the Portuguese, who enslaved many of the region’s inhabitants and transported them to Brazil. Enslaved people who became Brazilians created a fish stew known as caruru, which was then brought to Angola by way of Portuguese ships.
Calulu–as it became known in Angola–has a palm oil base, which I have come to find is an essential ingredient in Angolan cuisine. The stew is traditionally made with dried fish, eggplant, greens, and okra, which are other key components of the cuisine.
Similar to Muamba de Galinha, Calulu de Peixe is usually served with funge. However, I opted for boiled yam as I love how the starch pairs with the flavorful palm oil based stews.
According to Arousing Appetites and Real Food Encyclopedia, the Portuguese name for okra is quingombo, which was derived from the Angolan word quillobo. Quingombo became gumbo in the United States, which refers to the popular Creole stew. It is amazing how much history can be found in the words we use every day without thinking.
Looking For Dessert in Angolan Food? Try Bolo de Ginguba
Although dessert is not particularly present in Angolan cuisine, this peanut sponge cake is quite popular. The base is a sponge cake made with condensed milk, a tablespoon of peanut butter, and lemon zest. These ingredients give it a flavor and texture similar to pound cake.
The sponge cake is traditionally iced with a caramel glaze made from condensed milk. I chose to cook down a mixture of condensed milk, butter, heavy cream and brown sugar when making my caramel. I then crushed roasted peanuts in my food processor and placed them on top of the cake.
Bolo de Ginguba reminded me a bit of caramel cake, which is quite integral to soul food cuisine. The addition of the peanuts added texture and a nutty saltiness that worked well with the caramel. Next time, I would add a little oil just to make the cake itself a bit more moist, but it was still very tasty. A slice of this peanut sponge cake is perfect with a cup of steaming coffee or tea.
I enjoyed each and every one of these dishes and plan to add Angolan food to my arsenal! Have you tried any of these dishes before? If not, which would you like to try?
For a look at another cuisine, check out my post A Guide to Food in The Bahamas.