15 March 12
Tonight, David prepared a traditional West African dish for me — alloco. Deep-fried plantain pieces is a favourite of mine and takes me back to my childhood in Africa.
I grew up in the West African nation of Cote d’Ivoire, and it was here that I was introduced to alloco. “Street food” — sold by vendors on the side the of the road — was a treat for us, equivalent to take-away fast-food, and my parents would buy alloco occasionally for a snack or to supplement our evening meal.
When we were home, Friday nights were our favourite. My two sisters and I were each given 100 francs (cfa) and sent out to find our own food. At the time, 100 francs was worth about 30 Australian cents. I could divide up my 100 francs to buy 50 francs of alloco and a piece of baguette with a brochette in it. It was yummy! With inflation, prices went up, and our 100 francs slowly grew to 250 francs — still less than a dollar — but we would eat really well.
My family would always buy our alloco from the same person — a woman we knew only as “Tantie” or “Auntie”. She sat under a tree close to our apartment building and on the pathway to market, cooking up alloco in a great big pot of oil. Tantie greeted us every time we walked past, but in a confusing way. I could never work out if her “Ça où va?” was asking how I was or where I was going.
Alloco is called dodo in Nigeria and kelewele in Ghana. Plantains are also great grilled over coals (or on a barbecue). They’re available in supermarkets that cater to an immigrant clientele, so you could try making alloco too.
If you’d like to try more West African recipes, the best books are available online for free. Wild Boar on the Kitchen Floor and The Crocodile Cookbook are both fine collections of traditional African recipes and Western dishes prepared with African ingredients.
It was fun introducing this part of my childhood with our children. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to where I grew up, so I’m starting to share more of my memories before I forget the background that has made me who I am today.
Now if you see plantains for sale, you’ll know what to do with them. Once you try alloco, you’ll be hooked! And please let me know if you give fried plantains a go.
You can discover more foods of the world here: