The most commonly known West African dish seems to be Groundnut soup (aka West African peanut soup). So many recipes abound for this dish, I thought as our first West African recipe, we would try a popular American recipe, and compare it later with a truly traditional recipe. I did believe we were using West African staple foods: peanuts and sweet potatoes. It wasn't until after we made (and enjoyed) this soup that I learned that sweet potatoes are not a staple food - in fact, they are rare in the region.
My mistake was in assuming that when I read about yams in West Africa, they were equivalent to what we call yams in North America (which are generally interchangeable with sweet potatoes). Yams are an important part of the West African diet, but they are nothing like sweet potatoes, and aren't even part of the same family. Oh, and they don't actually feature in groundnut soup. This was another reminder that when exploring an unknown country or different culture from your own, throw away your assumptions :)
You can watch a video that shows and describes the differences here.
|North American yam/sweet potato (Source)|
The sweet potato is a starchy, sweet tasting root vegetable
The yam is a starchy edible tuber
West African Inspired Peanut Soup
Recipe adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Favorites
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced (or grated)
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
- 1 tsp hot sauce (tobasco, or the like) *optional
- 540 ml tomato juice (approximately 2 1/4 cups)
- 4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock to make this vegetarian)
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat oil in large pot. Add onion, garlic and sweet potatoes and cook until softened, stirring often for approximately 15 minutes. Stir in the ginger and hot sauce. Add the stock and bring to a boil on medium high, then reduce to low and simmer, uncovered for about 20 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are softened.
2. Add the tomato juice and peanut butter. Stir well until the peanut butter is blended, and then puree the soup - I used an immersion blender, but you could also use a blender in batches.
Serve hot and enjoy!