Wakanda, the Afrofuturistic society in Black Panther, celebrates many beautiful aspects of African culture and tradition like never before. A lot of Black Panther fans are jubilant at this watershed moment in black, big-screen representation. As a food blogger focused on African foods, I was filled with an added sense of optimistic relief. Most indigenous Africans like myself will attest that this current awakening is an inward view of Africa that we have prided ourselves on knowing all along.
While Wakanda is a fictional country in Africa, it is an amalgamation of many alluring and existing cultures of different African countries. To honor the power of disparate parts becoming a colorful, coherent whole, I created recipes for a meal consisting of koshari (also spelled “koshary” and “kushari”) and kelewele, two street foods that hail from Egypt and Ghana, respectively. Koshari is a dish composed of rice, beans, pasta and a chickpea and tomato sauce, while kelewele is a sweet and spicy snack of fried, spiced plantains topped with peanuts. Kelewele is common in Accra, Ghana, but also appears in Nigeria, where it is called dodo.
Together, the two dishes reflect the best parts of Wakanda. The koshari is an ode to Afrofuturism and Egypt, an African nation known for ancient technology, science and mathematics. This country is also the home place of the fictional Heliopolitan deities worshipped by the Wakandans in the Black Panther comics. Meanwhile, the kelewele pays homage to the Dora Milaje, warrior women who surround and protect the Wakandan king in the Black Panther movie. (They also serve as candidates for his wife and queen of Wakanda in the comics.) The combination of sweet and spice of kelewele reflects how the Dora Milaje are equally feminine and tough, making them feared and respected in the Marvel universe. The kelewele also serves as a sweet balance to the strong flavors of the koshari. Both these dishes happen to be vegan — and suitable for the vegetarian Jabari tribe.
1 28-ounce or 1-pound can plum or Roma tomatoes
4 medium-sized yellow onions
1 cup basmati rice
1 cup black lentils, soaked for at least 6 hours or overnight
2 teaspoons vegetable bouillon
1 cup vermicelli pasta noodles
1 15-ounce can chickpeas
Oil for frying
2 cloves garlic
1 Scotch bonnet pepper (optional)
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste
1. Slice the onions lengthwise.
2. Fry the onions until golden brown, and set aside.
3. Soak the rice in cool water and set aside.
4. In a pot, boil the soaked lentils in 4 cups of water on medium-high heat till it is 3/4 cooked. (Do not salt the water that you will be boiling the lentils in, as this will make it cook unevenly.)
5. Cook the lentils until they are slightly al dente, or 3/4 of the way cooked. (This should take about 15 to 20 minutes.) Drain the soaked rice and mix in with the boiling lentils with 1/2 teaspoon salt, the vegetable bouillon and 2 tablespoons of the oil used to fry the onions. The water in the pot should be just enough to cover the rice and lentils. Once the rice and lentil mixture starts to bubble, turn the heat down to low, cover the pot and allow to cook for 5 minutes. The water should not be completely boiled off.
6. Next, add in the vermicelli noodles, mix, cover the pot and let it sit for 2 minutes on the lowest heat possible.
7. Take the lentil, rice and vermicelli mixture off the heat and allow to stand covered for 10 minutes. Then fluff the koshari with a fork and set it aside.
8. To make the tomato sauce, simply blend the tomatoes, Scotch bonnet pepper (optional) and garlic.
9. Place the tomato sauce in a sauce pan with 1/4 cup of the oil used to fry the onions. Add the salt, sugar, cumin and vinegar. Simmer the tomato sauce for 20 minutes on low heat. Then set aside until ready to serve. (To serve the koshari, scoop the rice, lentil and pasta mix first on a plate, top with some chickpeas, tomato sauce, fried onions and, of course, the side of kelewele.)
1/2 Scotch bonnet pepper
1/4 small onion
1 ounce fresh ginger (approximately 2 tablespoons ginger paste)
4 grains of selim (optional)
Seeds from 1 alligator pepper (optional)
5 cloves (optional)
4 ripe plantains
Oil for frying
1. Mix the Scotch bonnet pepper, onion, ginger, grains of selim, alligator pepper seeds and cloves to a rough paste. You can use a mortar and pestle or a blender.
2. Peel and cut the plantains into even-sized chunks and mix with the ground spices and 1 teaspoon of salt.
3. Fry the plantains in hot oil (about 375 degrees Fahrenheit) until golden brown.
4. Top with peanuts, if desired, and serve immediately.
Lois Oviawe and her husband Femi Ologhobo run Yummy Medley, a blog focused on African and Afro-tropical foods. They are both originally from Nigeria, and are currently based in Baltimore.