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Just like its culture, Sudan’s cuisine has been shaped by a number of outside influences across the centuries, with echoes of West African, Arabic and European cookery strongly evident. Dishes tend to be relatively simple to prepare and many recipes call for just one pan, but the complexity of flavours comes from deft use of a variety of spices and herbs.
Dining in Sudan is a communal affair, and commonly a pretty large group of extended family will gather at every meal time to enjoy eating together from the Sudanese seniyya – a large round metal platter that holds all the communal dishes – and exchanging the news of the day. Sitting down to dine together is also symbolic of unity and peace in Sudan, where the expression ‘we ate a meal together’ means ‘all is well between us.’
In Sudan breakfast is often quite hearty with a few different dishes to choose from. Recipes tend to show some similarities with traditional Middle Eastern breakfast foods such as simple omelettes perhaps cooked with some chopped vegetables, or ful medames, the classic thick broad bean stew which in Sudan is often served with tomato, onion, crumbled feta or hard boiled eggs.
The best loved celebratory dish in Sudan is a rich meat stew known as Mullah which is flavoured with plenty of onion and garlic, peanut butter and tomato. Some recipes also call for okra or yoghurt as well. Once cooked the Mullah stew is often blended to give a smooth consistency, and it is scooped up with pieces of kisra, a typical Sudanese flatbread made with a batter of flour and ghee which is spread thinly on a flat griddle rather like a crepe. These two dishes are often served together as the centrepiece of the Sudanese seniyya.
These fava or chickpea fritters are the same as falafel but in Sudan they are known as Tamayya. Once the chickpeas or fava beans have been re-hydrated and ground to a crumbly paste, the cook adds cumin, coriander, garlic, salt and lemon juice, rolls the paste into small balls or patties and fries them until golden. These are often served in a sandwich or with dips in Sudan.
As well as dried fruits such as dates and apricots, the Sudanese enjoy delicate fried pastries shaped into diamonds and triangles using a plain dough, deep fried and sprinkled with sugar – much like a doughnut. Basboosa is another popular treat, a sweet cake made with semolina. Mukhbaza is a sweet dessert of breadcrumbs blended with mashed banana and local honey.
Typical drinks in Sudan include a diluted tamarind flavoured drink and red hibiscus tea, as well as coffee or tea made Sudanese with the addition of cinnamon and sugar for a warming spiced cup. Tap water is not usually safe to drink and alcohol is forbidden. Locally brewed spirits and beers do exist, but the punishment for being caught drinking them is harsh, so best to avoid alcohol altogether during your time in Sudan.
Other popular dishes you might like to try include Goraasa be Dama, a flavoursome beef stew made with fresh tomato and green pepper and given a depth of flavour by the addition of cardamom and cinnamon; Kawari, which is a soup made by boiling the hooves of cattle or sheep and flavouring with a selection of vegetables; or Fassikh, a combination of fish, spices and tomatoes cooked together to give the fish a lovely spiced flavour.
Among the best loved and most commonly eaten ingredients in Sudan are peanuts, rice, fava beans, maize or sorghum porridge, okra, meat and sesame. A range of spices are used but the most popular is probably cumin. Dill is a common garnish, as is coriander.
Make it happen
Sudan is a truly off the beaten track destination with very few tourists so it can be a real journey of discovery – pyramids, ancient kingdoms, a buzzing capital and an untouched Red Sea coast are just a few of the reasons to visit. The food has layers of enticing flavours which reflect the multicultural influences that Sudan has absorbed over the years. Our trusted local experts can plan your itinerary according to your preferences, so if you would like to focus on food, history or culture, they can make it happen. Contact them here or to speak to someone in the TravelLocal office please call +44 (0)117 325 7898.
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