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.
ritual of hospitality is as important in the Sudan as it is in other
Arab countries. And while there is a measure of similarity in all the
Arab 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.
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
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.
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 (page 22).
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
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
You Can Present a Sudanese Dinner
a low table, perhaps in the living room, and place cushions on the floor
around it. Remind your guests to be comfortably clad if you plan to
serve dinner in this way. Use a plain cloth on the table and, instead
of a centerpiece, place flowers around the room. The table should be
bare. Give your guests large cloths to cover their knees instead of
a pitcher of cold orange or grapefruit juice on hand and offer each
guest a small glass filled with juice as he arrives.
will need large trays on which to serve the meal. On the largest tray
place a small bowl of soup, Shorba, for each guest and pass the spoons
separately. The guest holds the bowl in his left hand as he eats and,
when he is finished, returns the empty bowl to the tray. The entire
tray is then removed.
the second largest tray for the platter of Maschi, a two-quart bowl
of white rice, a stack of eight Kisra (bread), a bowl of Salata and
individual tiny dishes of Shata, the hot spice which each guest uses
to his taste. If there is room on the tray, there should be a stack
of little plates or small salad bowls. The hostess may serve individual
salads or guests may help themselves.
your guests are too squeamish to sop up the dinner with the Kisra, give
them each a small dinner plate with a fork and teaspoon and ask them
to take a portion of Maschi and rice. Water glasses should be available
on a small side table but do not serve water unless it is requested.
When the guests have finished eating, the plates are put back on the
tray and the tray removed.
the third tray serve a platter of shimmering Creme Caramela beautifully
decorated with candied cherries and a compote dish and a spoon for each
tray bearing a teapot and tea cups (each holding a small piece of stick
cinnamon) and an open bowl of sugar is brought in last.
is the time to light your incense burner and fill the room with the
delicate fragrance of sandalwood.
This is a most interesting soup. It is a medium puree sparkled with
peanut butter and lemon. The Sudanese usually add rice but it is omitted
here since rice is served with the entree. Three cloves of garlic may
be a bit strong so start with one clove and test the soup as it cooks
to see if you would prefer a more penetrating garlic flavor.