AIMK Special #1: Coffee & Doughnuts

Africa in my kitchen

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Reposted from @234Pantry on Instagram

Africa is a continent of 1.2 billion people, 54 sovereign countries, and thousands of ethnic groups and languages. Naturally, the cuisine is just as diverse. However, there are similarities that cut across culture and country, and we thought it would be nice to highlight those in a series.

This is our first edition and we’ll be starting with coffee and doughnuts – coffee, because Africa is the alleged birthplace of coffee, and doughnuts because, well, who doesn’t like doughnuts?

It is believed that coffee was first found by a goat herder in Ethiopia who found that his goats became very energetic after eating berries from a specific tree. The herder reported this to an abbot in a monastery nearby who made a drink out of these berries that kept him up at night. The abbot spread this information to others in the monastery and before long, word has spread to the Arabian Peninsula. Cultivation and trade of coffee subsequently began on the Arabian Peninsula.

In Ethiopia, drinking coffee is much more than grabbing some in a to-go cup to kickstart your day. Ethiopia is famous for its coffee drinking ceremony that involves family and friends. The coffee and beans are freshly roasted in a pan by the host, then painstakingly ground, brewed, and poured for guests to enjoy while the chat. A coffee ceremony in traditional Ethiopian homes can take up to two hours.

In Senegal, coffee is often drunk as Café Touba. Café Touba is made with roasted coffee beans, spiced with Guinea pepper or Grains of Selim and cloves (optional). It is served with lots of sugar.

In other parts of the continent, more people drink tea or hot chocolate drinks than they do coffee. Coffee can be served commercially, but the demand is not great, although it has risen a little in recent times. However, multiple countries produce coffee for export. Ethiopia, Uganda, Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Kenya, and Tanzania are among the top 20 exporters of coffee globally. These five countries plus an additional 16 African countries are among the top 50 producers globally.

Many African cities and towns have Western influences when it comes to doughnuts. There are direct imports like Krispy Kreme chains (in some countries) and many locally owned shops that make European and American-like doughnuts. However, there are also African variations of fried dough that have existed for many years. Some of them look like traditional doughnuts and may even taste a little like them but have their own distinct character. We traveled (virtually) around the continent and decided on five kinds. Here we go.


It was a little difficult to determine the difference between mandazi and mahamri but based on what we found and questions we asked, it seems to come down to dialect and country – Mandazi in Tanzania and Mahamri in Kenya. Another possibility is that mahamri has coconut milk and mandazi does not, but some recipes that used coconut milk also referred to the doughnuts as mandazi. Mandazi comes in multiple shapes, but the most common one is triangular. They are popularly eaten by the Swahili people, particularly in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Mandazi is often had with tea and can be a breakfast snack. The first time I tried mandazi, the taste of cardamom was evident, so I assumed mandazi required cardamom. However, we found that some recipes do not include cardamom. We used cardamom and coconut milk and have absolutely no regrets.  


Puff-puff is spherical-shaped like a drop doughnut. This little gem is known by different names across the West and Central African region. It is Puff-puff in Nigeria, Bofrot in Ghana, Gbofloto in Cote d’Ivoire, Botokoin in Togo, Kala in Liberia, Mikate in the DRC, and sometimes generally referred to as beignets in Francophone Africa. Among countries and even cooks, there may be slight variations in the recipe. However, almost all will call for flour, sugar, yeast, and water at the very minimum. Puff-puff is a popular street snack that you can get hot and fresh right out of the pot of bubbling oil in many of these countries.

In Nigeria, however, puff-puff has ascended to new heights of respect. Puff-puff might have its origins as a street snack, but now it has the honour of gracing high tables at weddings with its presence. If there is one thing accorded respect and money in Nigeria, it is weddings. Any Nigerian will tell you that no wedding is complete without small chops (little appetizers), and small chops are not complete without puff-puff.

BUNS (WEST AFRICA) Recipe by Chef Lola’s Kitchen

Buns look similar to puff puff and are commonly eaten in Nigeria. Both are round and brown and have the basic foundations of a doughnut. However, where puff-puff is chewy at first bite and a little dense, buns traditionally has a harder, crunchier exterior and a lighter texture and pillowy look inside. Buns batter doesn’t need as much leavening as that of puff puff; instead of yeast, a little baking powder is used. Also, buns often have eggs, milk, butter, and sometimes, nutmeg and vanilla.

Side note: While puff puff has no plural noun (you can ask for 1 puff-puff or 100 puff-puff), buns seems to have no singular. You will rarely (if ever) be sold just one, but whether you want 1 or 50, call it “buns.”

KOEKSISTERS (SOUTHERN AFRICA) Recipe by Natural Cane Sugars, NZ

These twisty delights are native to South Africa. Koeksisters are different from koe’sisters (also South African) which are drop doughnuts rolled desiccated coconuts Koeksisters were brought to South Africa by Dutch settlers in the 17th century.

After proofing the dough, you cut it into strips, braid them, fry in hot oil, and immediately plunge them into ice cold spiced sugar syrup. Our syrup was spiced with lemon, cinnamon, and ginger.

The result is that you bite through a sweet crunchy exterior and encounter a light, soft-textured interior.

SFENJ (NORTHERN AFRICA) Recipe by My Moroccan Food

Sfenj is mainly eaten in the Maghreb region which consists of Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, and Mauritania. Sfenj is made from sticky, unsweetened dough. You can dip the finished product in syrup or honey, but this is optional. We chose to sprinkle it with a teeny bit of sugar, but mostly enjoyed it unsweetened. A well made sfenj is crunchy outside and softer, fluffy, and chewy inside.

In Morocco they are a popular street snack and can be purchased in a souk (outdoor bazaar) freshly made and hot and hung on a rope to cool.

Try one or two or ALL of these and let us know what you think.



This history of coffee” –  National Coffee Association.

Facts about the coffee ceremony in Ethiopia” –  Absolute Ethiopia Tours

Café Touba” – Bunaa

Top coffee producing countries” –  World Atlas

Origins of Koeksisters” – The sweet honey bird

“Sfenj, Moroccan Donuts” – Café Liz

Written by @234Pantry

© 2020 TunukaMedia

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