Advertisement Close

The Arab Influence on Chicken Dishes from East Africa

posted on: May 6, 2020

By: Habeeb Salloum/Arab America Contributing Writer

Anyone who has visited the countries along the East African coast in the past, before the region’s civil wars and anarchy, usually remembers being seduced by its delicious local cuisine, especially the spicy and wholesome chicken dishes.  Alas! Today there are few foreign travelers to the area and relishing the foods of many of these lands is now a delight waiting for some time in the future.

Historically the cuisine of this region was influenced by other Africans as well as traders, mostly from Asia, and invaders from the Arabian Peninsula, Persia, the Indian sub-continent and Indonesia.  The last of these influences came by way of the Portuguese and finally the British, Italians, and French who only left near the end of the 20th century. The influences of these many peoples and cultures have left their mark in all facets of life, including the cuisines of these countries.

Thanks to the Arab and Indian merchants, today East Africa’s food is rich in spices, especially anise, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, ginger, nutmeg, all types of peppers, saffron, turmeric, and other spices.

These condiments affected the local dishes and the food in this part of Africa became much more attractive to foreign tastes.  Even though most of the East African countries contain large sections of pastoral land, meat is an expensive commodity for the majority of the people.

However, for the consumption of chicken, it is a different story since it is reasonably priced and it makes for excellent dishes. Served with the traditional staples of maize, millet, and sorghum, or rice imported from the countries of the Indian sub-continent, chicken adds immensely to the food of the poor.  Not only that, but chicken dishes are produced to a gourmet standard.

The following recipes are my own re-creation of traditional East African chicken dishes.  They include some different condiments and are much more simplified.

Djibouti Soup– Fah-Fah

Serves 8 to 10

The Arab Influence on Chicken Dishes from East Africa

Fah-Fah is a classic Djiboutian soup. Traditionally it is made with goat meat but chicken in my view gives it more appeal to those not accustomed to goat meat.

1-pound chicken, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

8 cups of water
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups shredded cabbage
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions

1 cup finely chopped fresh coriander leaves (cilantro)
2 cups stewed tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 green chili, seeded and finely chopped
1 medium onion finely chopped

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

Place the chicken and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Simmer over medium-low heat or one hour or until the chicken is well-done.

Chicken with Coconut – Poulet au Coco   

Serves about 6

The Arab Influence on Chicken Dishes from East Africa

Comoros cooks are as a whole passionate about their handiwork, especially when they prepare such dishes as Poulet au Coco, a chicken dish cooked with greens and rice, considered one of the most popular dishes in the country.

4 tablespoons butter

2 pounds chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 medium onions, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, crushed

2 cups of coconut milk

1 cup of water
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup finely chopped green onions

1 small bunch parsley, finely chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

3 cups cooked rice

1 fresh lime

Melt the butter in a saucepan then fry chicken over medium heat for 10 minutes or until golden brown.  Stir in the onions, garlic, coconut milk, water, curry, nutmeg, and thyme then bring to a boil. Cover and cook the mixture over medium heat for 10 minutes, occasionally stirring, then add the green onions, parsley, salt, and pepper.  Stir well and allow to cook over medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a little water if necessary.

Evenly place rice on a serving platter then spread chicken with its sauce over top.  Squeeze lime juice over the top and serve.

Somali Chicken Pilaf – Iskudheh Karis
Serves about 8 to10

The Arab Influence on Chicken Dishes from East Africa

In Somalia this dish is made from a whole chicken, cut into serving pieces and the rice is cooked with the remaining ingredients. However, I think that my method is pleasing to the eye and, hence, more appetizing.

5 tablespoons cooking oil

3 pounds chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tablespoons coriander leaves, chopped

1 small hot pepper, de-seeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1 teaspoon ginger, freshly grated

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds

3 tablespoons tomato paste, diluted in 1/2 cup water
2 cups chicken broth
4 cups cooked rice, kept warm

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat then add the chicken pieces. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and fry, turning frequently, until the pieces begin to brown.

Stir in the onion and garlic, coriander leaves, and hot pepper then fry over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, adding a little more oil if necessary. Stir in remaining ingredients, except the rice, and bring to a boil.  Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 45 minutes, adding a little more water if necessary.

Spread the rice on a serving platter then place the chicken pieces on top.  Spoon the sauce over the chicken pieces then serve immediately.

Comoronian Chicken Indian Style – Poulet l’Indienne

Serves about 8

The Arab Influence on Chicken Dishes from East Africa

This dish has its roots in the Indian sub-continent but has become a very classic Comoronian food.

6 tablespoons cooking oil

3 to a 4-pound whole chicken, cut into serving pieces

1 large onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 large chili, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

3 cups stewed tomatoes

2 1/2 cups water

1 cup plain yogurt
2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper

3 to 4 cups cooked rice

4 tablespoons whole blanched almonds, toasted

Heat oil in a saucepan then fry chicken pieces over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until golden brown, turning over a number of times.  Remove the chicken pieces and set aside.

Add the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli and stir-fry for 5 minutes, adding more oil if needed.

Add the cloves and cardamom and fry for a few minutes more.  Return the chicken to the saucepan and stir in the remaining ingredients, except the rice and almonds, then bring to boil.  Cover and simmer gently over low heat for 1 hour (add a little water if the mixture dries too quickly). Serve on a bed of rice garnished with the toasted almonds.

Chicken Thighs, Ethiopian Style

Serves 6

The Arab Influence on Chicken Dishes from East Africa

 

3 1/2 pounds chicken thighs

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Coat the thighs in the olive oil and set aside.

Mix the remaining ingredients well then rub half of the mixture over the thighs and arrange them side by side in a casserole.  Sprinkle remaining ingredient mix over the thighs and cover. Allow to stand for 2 to 4 hours.

Place in oven and bake for 1 1/2 hours, turning over once midway during the cooking.  Uncover and continue baking for another 15 minutes or until thighs are well done. Serve with mashed potatoes or cooked rice.

Kenyan Chicken with Coconut – Kuku wa Kupaka 

Serves 8

The Arab Influence on Chicken Dishes from East Africa

Delightfully delicious with a smooth, creamy taste.

One 4-pound chicken, cut into serving pieces
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon dried rosemary

8 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 small hot pepper, seeded and finely chopped

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 medium tomatoes, sliced
1 teaspoon curry

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
2 cups thick coconut milk

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)

Marinate chicken pieces in ginger, garlic, rosemary, hot pepper, lime juice, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 2 tablespoons olive oil then set aside for 2 hours.

Remove chicken pieces for barbecue but retain the remaining marinade.

Grill chicken pieces for 30 minutes then set aside but keep warm.

Heat remaining oil in a large frying pan then sauté onions over medium heat for 10 minutes or until golden.  Stir in remaining ingredients, except coconut milk and coriander, then sauté over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, stirring a number of times adding more oil if needed.  Stir in coconut milk and the remaining marinade used for the chicken (If there’s any left). Lower the heat and stir the sauce for about 5 minutes till it thickens.

Place grilled chicken in a serving platter then pour the coconut sauce over.  Garnish with coriander then serve with rice.

Tanzanian Baked Chicken

Serves 8 

The Arab Influence on Chicken Dishes from East Africa

This is a traditional baked Tanzanian chicken – wholesome and delicious.

4 tablespoons olive oil

3 pounds of chicken pieces
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup of coconut milk
2 cups stewed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper
½ pound okra, frozen

Heat the oil in a large frying pan then lightly brown the chicken pieces. Remove the chicken and arrange in a single layer in a casserole then set aside.

In the same frying pan and in the same oil, adding more oil if needed, fry the onion and red bell pepper over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are soft. Spread evenly over chicken.

Combine the remaining ingredients, except okra, then pour evenly over the chicken.

Spread the okra over top, cover casserole place in an oven pre-heated to 350° F.  Bake for 45 minutes then remove the cover and bake for a further 20 minutes.

Serve immediately with cooked rice.

Zanzibar Chicken

Serves 8

The Arab Influence on Chicken Dishes from East Africa

From Zanzibar, the isle of spices comes this recipe, tasty, creamy, and wholesome.

4 tablespoons olive oil

4 to 5-pound chicken, cut into serving pieces

2 medium onions, finely chopped

6 garlic cloves, crushed

2 small hot peppers, seeded and finely chopped

2 cups stewed tomatoes

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 cups chicken broth

2 cups of coconut milk

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)

Heat oil in a large saucepan then fry the chicken on both sides over medium until it begins to brown. Remove the chicken from the saucepan.

In the same oil fry, the onions, garlic, and hot pepper over medium heat for 6 minutes then add tomatoes and cook for a further 6 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients, except chicken and coriander, and bring to boil.  Add the chicken to the saucepan, cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 45 minutes, or until the chicken is well-cooked.  Gently stir in the coriander.

Serve hot with cooked rice.

Zanzibar Chicken Soup – Supu Ya Kuku

Serves 8     

    The Arab Influence on Chicken Dishes from East Africa             

4 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 pounds of chicken pieces

6 cloves garlic, crushed

1 small hot pepper, seeded and finely chopped

2 cups shredded cabbage

1 cups finely chopped celery

1 cup stewed tomatoes

4 cups of water

4 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon garam masala

Melt the butter in a large saucepan then fry onions over medium heat for 5 minutes.  Add chicken then fry for a further 5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic, hot pepper, Cabbage and celery and stir stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to boil then cook over medium-low heat for 1 hour.

Ethiopian Chicken Appetizer- Sambossa

Makes 18-20

The Arab Influence on Chicken Dishes from East Africa

This is a tasty Ethiopian appetizer carrying the imprint of India.  These are best served hot.  For an interesting variation on taste, dip into Chinese plum sauce or any hot sauce.

1 pound ground chicken

1 small onion, finely chopped

5 cloves garlic crushed

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon garam masala or curry

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander leaves (cilantro)

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 cups of water

1 package (1 pound) egg roll wraps

1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water

Oil for frying

Make a filling by placing all the ingredients, except wraps and oil, in a saucepan then bringing to a boil.  Cook uncovered over medium heat, stirring often until all liquid evaporates.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

To prepare the sambossas, place an egg roll wrap diamond-shape on a flat surface.  Slightly moisten all the edges with the cornstarch-water mixture.  Place one heaping tablespoon of the prepared chicken filling on the bottom half of the wrap.  Lift the upper half over the filling and press the edges along all sides of the triangle.  Pinch to seal the edges.  Continue the process until all the wraps are used.

Heat oil 2 inches deep in a saucepan and deep-fry the sambossas over medium-high heat until they turn golden on both sides.  Drain on paper towel then serve immediately.