West African Food: The British Invasion

Gone are the days when African food was paid zero attention and had a non-existent audience in the West. Global food trend consultancy, The Food People, estimates that dishes from countries like Senegal and Nigeria could be the next big food trend.

(Image: Rimma Bondarenko / Shutterstock)


Gone are the days when African food was paid zero attention and had a non-existent audience in the West.

Then it was almost a thing of embarrassment to be African because of the ‘long and aggressive’ names, and the weird, funny smelling foods like fufu, or palm oil-based stew with fish. African food was described as stodgy, unhealthy and simply uncouth. No one wanted to be teased for eating such foods, so it was always easy to say you ate, McDonalds or fish and chips, just to remain a part of the status-quo.

Fast forward 20 something years later and it seems everyone from all walks of life want to have a taste of jollof rice, suya, ofada stew, fried plantain and so much more. It’s now fashionable to know what jollof rice is and even to take part in the age-old debate of which West African country produces the best jollof rice recipe.

Jollof rice is definitely the signature of West African cuisine, not only do West African nations constantly argue about who has the best, there is now an official World Jollof Rice Day to commemorate it. The extent of its popularity became further evident when British celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver created his own version of jollof rice. A prime example of the extent of how West African food has exploded in the West and in particular, Britain.

West African food is now a firm staple in black British cuisine, it is no longer just Caribbean food, but African food has confidently cemented itself in British food culture. As curry based dishes are akin with Asia, and the Caribbean have jerk and curry goat, it’s safe to say West Africans have jollof rice.

“Jollof rice is my best Nigerian food; maybe because I find it everywhere I go, Nigeria is blessed with rich cultural heritage that attracts foreigners, especially its food”.  Denys Gauer, French Ambassador to Nigeria

With the large and ever-growing West African communities in London, now more than ever it’s getting more and more common to see African restaurants and supermarkets on many London high streets. With the success and longevity of restaurants like 805, and pop-ups such as Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, it’s so much easier for any and every one to access the delights of West African cuisine.

They are paving the way for many more restaurants and making it easier for African chefs and food bloggers to explore, experiment and create wonderful new and innovative cuisine.

Food experts and chefs are predicting West African food will be a big cuisine in 2018.

Global food trend consultancy firm, The Food People, estimates that dishes from countries like Senegal and Nigeria could be the next big food trend and the “last great untapped cuisine”.

Social media has also played a part in the evolution and popularity of West African cuisine. Instagram has seen the establishment of countless cooks and promotion of would-be chefs whose creation has boosted the popularity and love of West African food.  

Dunni Obata of Dooney’s Kitchen is one of the popular food pages on Instagram, with over 170k followers, she has definitely exposed the authenticity and intricacy of Nigerian food to the masses, Dunni’s uniqueness lies in the fact that she doesn’t just cook you regular Nigerian meals but will create variations and twists, like party jollof, native jollof or coconut jollof, and so much more. Her popularity has even seen a collaboration with Symmetry Breakfast, enlightening a whole new audience on what Nigerians have for breakfast.

Another rising star is UK-based Ghanaian chef Fafa Gilbert, Fafa specialises in West African and European fusion dishes, she is currently a regular guest chef on ITV’s Good Morning. With a popular YouTube channel and a TV series, Gilbert’s popularity is proof that West African food is making waves across the world.

West African food is also at the helm of a restaurant revolution with eateries like the gastronomic IKOYI which turn West African dishes into edible art, and the ever-growing takeaway chain, Tasty’s, the evolution of West African cuisine is only just beginning.

All that’s left to say is, watch this space.