Spent some time traveling in Africa many years ago and had an excellent dish called foo foo (alt. fufu) in Ivory Coast. Sort of the national dish of Ivory Coast.
The traditional way to make foo foo is to boil cassava and green plantains. They are then pounded together in a large mortar and pestle. The kind you have to stand up to use.
Foo foo is a traditional food that takes a few hours to make any real quantity. I tried to help make it while I was there; using that huge mortar and pestle efficiently is no small thing. I could never get the rhythm or the aim right to be really effective. It truly is a "slow" food that takes a ton of skill to make.
Foo foo is traditionally a side dish served with a spicy stew. It's subtle complex taste and amazing texture is the perfect foil for a spicy rich stew.
The thing is, once you do the pounding, the resulting starch is like nothing I have ever eaten. It is very gelatinous and gooey. Just for a point of reference the texture is a little like mucilage that has dried out too much.
I know that sounds bad, but that is just to give you an idea as to the texture. It is really amazingly delicious.
It is also actually quite difficult to eat for a beginner, because foo foo is traditionally eaten out of a communal bowl and shared by the whole table. It is traditional to eat using only your right hand, no utensils, and it is very hard to tear off a piece from the mass of foo foo in the bowl. At first I made quite a mess of it.
In fact, in Ivory Coast there is even sort of a running joke that white people can't eat foo foo because they can never tear off a bit to eat. You sort of have to snap some off. If you just pull, it will never break and stretches somewhat like chewing gum.
I once had something called foo foo at a West African place in Adams Morgan in D.C., but it was made from a mix and not at all the same.
So finally, my questions are:
- Has anyone had real foo foo anywhere in the U.S.?
- If not, any ideas of how to make it? The one thing that I can think of is trying to make some using a food processor with a plastic blade. Pretty darned sure that it would not be the same though.
I just did a google search of chowhound.com and it seems there are some promising leads, but nothing sounds quite like what I had. In Cuba they eat something called foofoo, but that is not the same.
Other African foods that I have never seen in the U.S.:
- Kenke: tangy fermented cornmeal cooked in a leaf. Bit like a tamale, but the fermented corn meal taste is totally different. Traditionally eaten in Ghana with dried fish and chile paste as sort of a meal on the go as you can hold it in your hand.
- Leafcutter. Ghanian delicacy that I never got around to trying. It is actually groundhog.
- Red Red: boiled bananas with red beans and sweet red palm oil. Traditional schoolboy breakfast in Ghana.
- Jollof Rice, National dish of Senegal
- Millet-based cous cous, popular in Mali
- Fresh cashew fruit with the cashew on it