Are you from the Sudan? This is the question that I am most frequently asked by Omani taxi drivers. Their query always amuses me because I do not resemble the Sudanese, or have ancestral roots in the Republic of Sudan. Just for the record, I have never even been to the Sudan. Today, however, we are going to take a culinary trip to this land, through the eyes of my lovely Sudanese student, Uad.
CT: Welcome, Uad! What image comes to mind when you think of Sudanese food?
I see a large family of around seven or eight people seated on a carpet in the reception room of their home. They have huge platters of bread, cheese, vegetables, meat, honey, and jam.
CT: What are the main ingredients used in Sudanese cuisine?
We use lots of garlic and onions in recipes.
CT: Please complete the following sentence: “A Sudanese meal is incomplete ….”
Without bread. Bread is very important in my culture. It is served at all meals. We even eat it when we have a cup of tea. Sudanese like to dip their bread in their tea.
CT: Please tell us about your eating customs and etiquette.
Before sitting down to eat, everybody must wash their hands. Next, we have to say grace before we eat. The oldest person is always served first. No one can begin to eat until everyone is present and the family elder has been served.
If you want a dish that is far from you, you cannot stretch your hands to reach it. You must ask the person seated closest to the food to pass it to you.
Lunch is the most important meal of the day. This is because the entire family gets together at this time. Fathers are home from work, and children are home from school. So, we usually sit down to eat lunch at 4 p.m. Since this is the main meal of the day, five or more dishes are usually served. Then in the evening, we have a light meal of tea and bread.
CT: Are there any differences between Sudanese cuisine by region?
Apart from Khartoum, which is my hometown, cooking in other regions is more traditional. Due to tourism in Khartoum, there is a strong western influence on our traditional cuisine. Although we do not have any fast food restaurants like Burger King, McDonald’s, and Pizza Hut, Italian food is very popular. So, locals often prepare pasta dishes at home.
CT: What local dish you recommend that travelers taste?
Molak with aseda. This is a pancake served with sugar or honey on top. The ingredients for the pancake are wheat, salt, flour, yogurt, salt, pieces of dried meat, and onions. It is very delicious! We always eat it during Ramadan because it gives us energy during fasting.
CT: Please share with us a recipe for a popular Sudanese beverage.
Sure. This recipe is for our tasty and nourishing tea called Karkade.
- Some dried Karkade (aka Hibiscus Flower or Sorrel) leaves
Pour boiling water over the Karkade, cloves, and ginger.
Wait a few minutes for it to brew, sweeten to taste, and enjoy.