Ahmed Hassan Omer (Hurga)
A culture of civilization is based upon its accumulating heritage. The dietary habits of people show an aspect of this civilization’s culture. Sudanese cuisine is as diverse as its geography and culture.
Central Sudan is perhaps the region that is the most diversified and colorful in its cuisine and dietary habits. This is due to its being a melting pot for the different Sudanese cultures and people and its exposure to external influence like the effect of the British domination during the condominium period.
Societies always start with simple unsophisticated types of food and gradually with their growth and development, they began to improvise and discover more tasteful and sophisticated dishes, each depending on the types of animals and agricultural discoveries.
After having established their basic cuisine, they tend to the development of complementing food for example appetizers, desserts, and other types of foods. The external influence on people’s dietary habits in Sudan could be mentioned here, for example, red pepper and other spices like garlic, pepper, and others.
They were brought to Sudan by the Syrian traders and Arab settlers from the Mediterranean who came to Sudan during the Turkish rule. They also introduced some vegetables and fruits. It is of importance to note that the main staple food of the Sudanese people is a special type of bread called Kisra, which is made from Dura or corn. Kisra is taken with stew and this has become the main food in central Sudan in particular and Sudan in general. The main components of which the stew is made are dried meat, dried onions, dried okra, spices, and peanut paste.
Other things could be added like milk and yogurt. These are used in preparing two well-known stews: Niaimiya and dried okra is used in preparing other types of stew like waika, bassara, and saboroag. Miris is a stew that is made from the sheep’s fat, onions, and fried okra. Other vegetables like potatoes, eggplants, and others are used in preparing meat stew.
This stew is accomplished with porridge (asseeda) which is made from wheat flour or corn. Sometimes Kisra is used. As for the popular appetizers in Sudan, there is “Elmarara” or “Umfitfit” prepared from parts of sheep like the lungs, liver, and intestine. To it, onions are added peanut butter and salt. It is eaten uncooked.
Also, other types of porridges are popular in Sudan which is made from wheat, dhukhun, and dates. They are taken together with milk sugar and margarine. Soup is an important component of Sudanese food. The most popular is “Kawari”, which is prepared from cattle or sheep’s hoofs. Also, there is “Elmusalammiya” which is prepared from the liver, flour, dates, and spices.
Even though present northern Sudan is known for its simple cuisine, it could be of great significance that historical evidence has proved that ancient Nubians were the first to discover wheat, and from them, the world got to know about it. This explains the fact that wheat flour has remained the staple food of the people of the north who use it in making their main food “Gourassa”. It is made of wheat and baked in a circular shape. Its thickness and size change according to needs.
In the east, the most popular dish is the “Mukbara” which is made from banana paste. This is greatly influenced by Ethiopian taste and cuisine. In the west, each tribal group has adopted different forms of food that are very simple.
Milk and dairy products are fundamental components to the majority of the people since most of them are cattle breeders. A distinct serial for which the west is well known is “dhukhun”. It is used in preparing thick porridge called asseeda to that is added stew called sharmout abyad which is cooked with dry meat. Another form of stew is Kawal which is made from a mixture of some roots of plants that are left to leaven and dry afterward.
Fassikh is one of the most popular dishes in central Sudan. It is made from a certain type of fish which is leavened for some time and after that cooked with onions, spices and tomato paste. Fassikh is known in Egypt but they do not cook it there instead they eat it raw. It is most probably of Nubian origin same as Eltarkeen which could not be found anywhere except in northern Sudan.
As for beverages, the Sudanese people have several distinct beverages which are made of some fruits that grow in Sudan.
In Ramadan (the Muslim fasting month) one of their favorite drinks is the Hilumur which is prepared from cornflour and spices. Also, there is Abrai Abiyad and Nashaa which are made from corn flour also.