West African countries like Nigeria, Senegal, Mali and Ghana are now sought-after for their largely unexplored cuisine. The international community has started to recognize the region’s vibrant and healthy ingredients and flavours that could rival that of South-East Asia. West African cuisine is spicy, wholesome and ideal for one-pot dishes that perfectly resonates with the current demand in the food industry. This emerging cuisine is believed to be the next big thing this year and could even surpass Indian food as the new takeaway choice of many.
With the number of innovation in the open food markets on the rise, more and more international brands are starting to adopt West African techniques, flavours and combining these with their own. Product innovation includes some key ingredients used in most West African dishes like cassava, okra, plantain, moringa, kola nuts, yam, beans, sorghum, peanuts, ginger, scotch bonnet chillies, and fonio.
Even with the increasing number of people converting to different dietary changes and restrictions, West African cuisine does not seem fazed, thanks to their mainly plant-based and gluten-free dishes. Vegans and vegetarians can still enjoy a big serving of a West-African dish minus the guilt.
The rise of some renowned kitchen superstars from West Africa helped in the introduction of West African cuisines to the international food community in the UK and other western countries. The Ghanaian born Zoe Adjonyoh, for example, led the change in raising awareness on the diverse cuisines of her home country by starting her business and writing a book with the same name Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen.
Another notable woman, an ambassador for West African cuisine, a cooking instructor, a published author, business mentor and an advocate for women in leadership, Ebere Akadiri, brought West African cuisine into the Netherlands with her ‘Vibrant West African Cuisine” cooking workshops, video course, packaged signature spice blends and a cookbook entitled Vibrant West African Cuisine. Her brand “Ataro” changed the narratives in the Netherlands even before West African Cuisine became a trend in Europe.
The owner of the first ever Nigerian fine dining restaurant with a Michelin star in the UK, Ikovi, used traditional Nigerian ingredients and combined them with the contemporary techniques used in the West and the result was a new and exciting fusion of flavours that appealed to the European market.
There is a growing opportunity in Europe for emerging cuisines like that of West Africa. The ingredients are natural and easy to find, can be elaborately and paired merely with contemporary cooking methods used in the West and there is a growing number of people craving for an innovative, safe and tasty food adventure.
I’m a food entrepreneur, former restaurant owner and a food business trainer. I help food lovers and enthusiasts around the world to learn about the food and culture of West Africa, with a particular focus on Nigeria.