Cuisine and Dining in Sudan
The Sudan is Africa in microcosm: a large country with geographic, extremes ranging from sandy desert to tropical forest. It is culturally a loose association of almost 600 tribes who have Arabic as their common language. The French, the English, and the Italians have all had colonies in the Sudan. The cuisine is a melding of the many varied backgrounds of the peoples who have influenced its history.
The ritual of hospitality is as important in the Sudan as it is in other Arab and African countries. And while there is a measure of similarity in all the Arab and African countries, each has its unique characteristics. For example, no other country prepares coffee as the Sudanese do, and if this country acquired culinary fame, it is for its Jebena Sudanese. The Sudanese fry their coffee beans in a special pot over charcoal and then grind it with cloves and certain spices. They steep it in hot water and serve it lovingly in tiny coffee cups after straining it through a special tresh grass sieve.
In Sudan, if you are an important guest, a sheep will be slaughtered in your honor. Many dishes will then be prepared, each more delicious than the last.
Favorite meats are lamb and chicken. Rice is the staple starch. Breads are the Arabian Khubz, but the Sudanese also make Kisra, an omelette- like pancake which is part of the Sudanese dinner. Vegetables, fresh and cooked, are of infinite variety. The okra, which incidentally came to the United States from Africa, is an important ingredient in a Bamia- Bamia, an okra lamb stew. You must try Maschi, a triple tomato dish stuffed with beef, as it is such fun to make.
As in most Arabic countries, fruits are peeled and cut in small slices for dessert, but the Sudanese also love sweets and every housewife knows how to make Creme Caramela.
You will like their unusual teas which can be made quite simply. But if you prefer to serve coffee, make it a demitasse.
How a Dinner is Served in Sudan
The concern and respect shown to one's guest throughout Africa, and from which we can learn much, is no greater anywhere than in the Sudan. As a guest enters a Sudanese home, he is immediately offered Abre or Tabrihana, a refreshing nonalcoholic fruit drink only slightly sweetened so as not to dull the appetite. This is a symbolic gesture welcoming him after his "long journey."
Dinner is served on a low table and guests are made comfortable on pillows decorated with ostrich feathers. The table is bare. The Arabic custom of pouring water over the hands of the guests from the Ebrig, a handsome shiny copper ewer (pitcher), and catching the water into an equally handsome copper basin is an important ritual in the Sudan. Each guest is offered a towel with which to wipe his hands. Large cloths to cover the knees are given to each guest in place of napkins.
Upon the signal of the host, dinner is served. It starts with soup, brought out in individual bowls on a huge, round, decorated copper tray. The large tray is placed on the table. Spoons are offered to the guests.
After the soup has been enjoyed, the entire tray is removed and a second large tray is brought in with all the dishes of the main course resting on beaded doilies made by the women. There may be five or six dishes to dip into. (No knives or forks are used but spoons may be provided.) But most of the Sudanese eat the main course from common dishes using Kisra or Khubz (their great flat breads) to sop up the mixtures. Four dishes are individually served-the soup, the salad, the Shata (red-hot spice) and the dessert.
When the entree is served, small plates or bowls are also brought in from which the host or hostess dishes out portions of salad and gives each guest a spoon with which to eat the salad. Again hands are washed and everyone looks forward to dessert. Sweets like Creme Caramela are usually served and are preferred to fruits. No beverage is served with dinner but one may ask for water. After dinner everyone relaxes and enjoys the famous Guhwah, coffee served from the Jebena, the stunning little coffee pot from which it is poured into tiny cups. If tea is preferred, the succulent spiced teas with cloves or cinnamon are served. Finally an incense burner filled with sandalwood is placed in the center of the room, a touch leaving the guests with a feeling of delightful relaxation. http://www.sudan.net/society/recipe.html