In Sudan, like in most of the world, families gather on the weekend, at one table to share a meal. This is usually for lunch in Sudan.
One of my most wonderful childhood memories is visiting my grandma’s house and watching her make the most delicious food.
Families are very connected in our culture, and it is not uncommon to find three generations living in the same house. When families live apart, it is especially important to get together and have lunch. My Egyptian friend tells me it is the same in his culture, although the meals are somewhat different.
One of my most wonderful childhood memories is visiting my grandma’s house and watching her make the most delicious food while waiting hungrily and with little patience.
The Sudanese population is made up of a combination of original inhabitants of the Nile Valley and migrants from the Arab peninsula.
There are 19 major ethnic groups and over 597 ethnic subgroups speaking more than 100 languages and dialects. This diversity plays out in a wide variety of foods.
One of the most popular ingredients, which every Sudanese meal must include is beans. They are very cheap in Sudan, which is why they are found all over the country. It’s also easy to cook. Just boil the beans with a little bit of salt, onion, pepper and sesame oil.
Most families in Khartoum depend on bread to go along with any dish, but that’s only in the capital. Go further north and kisra replaces bread.
One type of kisra is made of maize – common in northern Sudan where farmers grow a lot of maize – and another type is made of a different kind of flour called fitarita, only grown in western Sudan.
I have tried to make kisra with my grandma many times. Of course, hers was much better than mine, but the recipe is actually straightforward: corn, salt, water, barm or yeast. All the ingredients are mixed together and left for a couple of hours and then cooked on a flat pan, called saj, which is locally produced to make kisra.
Same bread across the border
In the Nile Basin countries, in one way or another, share very similar customs, traditions and food.
It was a surprise for me when I first tasted the Ethiopian kisra at an Ethiopian friend’s house. It showed me how we, in the Nile Basin countries, in one way or another, share very similar customs, traditions and food.
In Ethiopia, kisra is called injera. It’s similar to the Sudanese kind except that it’s a little bit thicker.
The food on any given Sudanese table is mostly determined by where that table is set: the climate, the vegetation and the animals of the area all greatly determine which kind of food is consumed.
In the southern part of Sudan, for example, the food is entirely different, as the soil is more fertile and much more productive than in the northern region. There, vegetables and fruits are regular components of daily meals.
On the Red Sea coast in eastern Sudan, of course, fish and seafood are most prevalent. In the western part, millet is grown a lot and a component in most of the dishes.
>>> For more of grandma’s recipes have a look at the ‘Taste the Niles’ poster below.