Monday, June 14, 2010

Day 19 - Benin - West African Kebabs (Kyinkyinga) - Up Next, Bhutan

What the Devil is she Doing????

Driving home from work today, authenticity was on my mind. Since I started this journey in April, my goal has been to prepare and cook meals from around the world as authentically as possible as a way to connect with each culture. That means looking for ingredients that replicate those of  each country as closely as possible, preparing the meal according to the recipe, deviating as little as possible, and serving the meal with with  appropriate utensils, and side dishes. 

So.......when I reached Benin, a beautiful West African country, I learned that even in urban areas, meals are prepared almost exclusively by women and girls (although that's changing somewhat), and for the most part, are cooked outside on stone cooking pits.You know what's next right??? Why couldn't I build my own stone cooking pit? Would it be over the top? Am I nuts? Then I got to thinking that if I really wanted to honor the culture, the food and the love that women all over the world, regardless of race, creed or culture put into cooking for their families, I could and should do this...A shout-out to my treasured friend, John for encouraging me to go for it and giving me technical advice on how to get it done!

I found field stone on our property (a farm at one time) to line the hole I dug, which was about 10" deep. The cobblestones (pudding stone) came from Mission Hill with us when we moved here 14 years ago!
I laid one grill on the base of stones about 4" off the ground to allow for air flow, then placed a larger grill about 5" above to avoid the food being to close to the fire and heat - Now I'm ready to hit the kitchen!

Thank you to EN-R-Gy Saver for hooking me up with two awesome Weber grill-tops (for about $20 total) and excellent advice! 

Benin (Porto-Novo) (AF): The beautiful country of Benin shares borders with Niger, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Togo. There are 5 distinct geographic zones. The south is a narrow coastal strip, broken up by lagoons and creeks. In the north, a plateau of fertile iron clay soil and marshy areas support oil palms. The central area a wooded savana with some hilly areas. The Atacora mountian chain in the northwest has the highest elevation, while the northeast is part of the Niger River Basin.

Beninese recognize about twenty sociocultural groups.  The Fon (founders of the Dahomey kingdom) are the largest group. Their language is closely related to that of the Aja and Goun, and there are close ethnic ties with those groups as a result of shared precolonial history.The Afro-Brazilian community in the south is descended from European traders, Africans who lived near European trading establishments, and traders and returned slaves from Brazil.

The basic meal consists of a staple starch prepared as a sort of mush, eaten with a sauce that contains vegetables and meat or fish. Food is prepared at least twice a day: at midday and in the evening. The morning meal may consist of warmed-up leftovers from the previous evening's meal or food purchased from roadside vendors. Sorghum, yams, okra, tomatoes, peanuts, eggplant, peppers can all be found depending on the region.Smoked, dried, or fresh fish is likely to accompany a meal in the south, while beef is more common in the north. Goats, sheep, and poultry are found throughout the country, although in poorer regions, meals often do not contain meat.

I prepared the fire using a combination of kindling, wood and a little charcoal - no lighter fluid!
For this meal, I decided to make a traditional West African "street" food, called Kyingyinga or Kebabs.
Peanuts (ground nuts), grated ginger, onions, garlic and Tabasco sauce for a nice kick

Marinate beef in onion/ginger mixture then skewer with green peppers

I can't believe it actually works!!

Kyinkyinga, marinade sauce (cooked) and salad

West African Kebabs (Kyinkyinga):

  • 1 kg (2 lb) medium lean steak or liver
  • 3 medium green capsicums (sweet or bell peppers),halved, seeded
  •       and cut into 2.5 cm (1-inch) squares
  • 30 g (1 oz) unsalted, dry-roasted groundnuts (peanuts) ground to powder
  •       in a coffee grinder or with a mortar and pestle
  • 4 medium onions, diced
  • 10 g (2 teaspoons) grated root ginger
  • 30 g (1 oz) plain flour
  • 60 g (2 oz) unsalted, dry-roasted groundnuts (peanuts) ground to powder
  • 2 large overripe tomatoes, blanched, peeled and mashed
  • 15 g (1 tablespoon) garlic salt
  • 15 mL (1 tablespoon) fresh Chilli Sambal Tabasco sauce or chilli paste
  •       (e.g. Sambal Oelek)
Remove excess fat from meat, wipe with a clean damp cloth or paper towel and cut into bite-sized cubes. Mix all ingredients for seasoning together in a bowl. Combine the meat and half the seasoning and mix thoroughly. Stand for a minimum of 1 hour before grilling. Skewer the seasoned meat alternately with the green capsicums (sweet or bell peppers) and grill until cooked and browned both sides. If liver is used, be careful not to overcook and dry it out.

Remove from the heat and sprinkle with the remaining 30 g (1 oz) of the groundnut (peanut) powder. Serve with salad, rice, bread or by itself. Leftover seasoning can be made into a sauce: add 60 mL (2 fl oz) wine (Moselle or ginger wine) and heat to thicken, then pour over the kebabs. You can make the sauce thinner by adding more wine.

Final Assessment: Delicious, spicy and loaded with the complex flavors of ginger, peanuts and the smokiness of being grilled on an open fire.

Music: Angelique Kidjo - Her music makes me think of my HonBun xox


Mary Trelease Beaudet said...

The lengths you'll go to! My hat's off to you!...Now that summer vacation is just a day away for me, I'm determined to give some of your recipes a try!

Mary Trelease Beaudet said...

Sarah, the lengths you'll go to! My hat's off to you! Now that I'm a day away from summer vacation, I'm determined to give some of your recipes a try! Way to go!