Gabon is a beautiful African country with amazing landscapes that feed the eyes. It also boasts one of the most robust cuisines in Africa that feeds the soul. Although the local economy has been challenging, Gabonese food remains one of the most exciting to explore.
What Is Special About Gabonese Food?
Gabonese cuisine is one of the diverse cuisines in Africa that is heavily steeped in local tradition. Many of its dishes are heavily meat and fish based. Plenty of Gabonese foods are also locally sourced with staple ingredients like cassava, fish, and vegetables.
National Food Of Gabon
Poulet Nyembwe (Gabonese Chicken Stew)
Poulet Nyembwe is often considered the national dish of Gabon. This food is popular in central Africa and many other countries in the Great Lake Region.
Nyembwe in the Bantu Language of Gabonese means “palm oil,” which hints at the ingredients of this Gabonese delicacy. Poulet Nyembwe is a chicken stew made with smoked chicken and palm oil.
This simple dish consists of basic ingredients like onions, garlic, and other local spices to give it flavor, but the secret lies in the “nyembwe sauce” in which chicken is cooked over low heat until tender.
You can enjoy this Gabon food with rice, pounded yam, or fufu. The best part is the meat literally melts in your mouth. On your next trip to Gabon, make sure you grab a bit of poulet nyembwe.
Famous Traditional Gabon Foods
Fufu (Cassava Dough)
This is a popular dish across Africa and also one of the best foods in Gabon. Fufu originated in Ghana but has become integral to Gabonese cuisine.
This sticky, starchy dumpling is prepared with cassava flour and is sometimes mixed with green plantain flour to reduce the starchiness. The taste of this food is bland, but when combined with local soups, it provides a feeling words cannot describe.
Locals enjoy eating their fufu with their hands, molding the dough, and scooping their soup with it. You can try eating this food with your hands also, but if you decide to use cutlery, it’s not against the culture in Gabon.
Feuilles De Manioc (Cassava Leaves)
This is a traditional food in Gabon with great significance. Feuilles is the pride of Gabonese cuisine, as it holds a special place in the hearts of locals.
In the past, feuilles was a go-to survival food for the older generations before it became an independent nation. This food is made from cassava leaves, but it has different variations. Every ethnic group in the country has its own recipe; such is the versatility of this food.
Some add sugar, while others add peanut paste, meat, and fish, and still others prefer canned sardines. Try as many versions of this food in Gabon as you can to fully appreciate its versatility.
This is a trademark Gabonese food born out of creativity and a native dish in the cuisine. Soukoute is made of cassava leaves sandwiched in banana leaves.
This food has unconventional ingredients like cawin (sea salt) and banana peel juice. But the main ingredient of this food is the Gabonese local spice “elodje.” When you add freshwater fish to the mix, you have an amazing delicacy you won’t be able to get enough of.
Meat And Fish Based Food In Gabon
Brochettes (Gabonese Skewers)
This traditional Gabonese food is a replica of the French brochettes. It’s a simple dish of meat and vegetables on skewers grilled over hot coals.
In Gabon, brochettes are more of a street food than a main dish. But it’s still a big part of the food culture in Gabon, as families pass down this food recipe to younger generations to keep the tradition alive. You can enjoy brochettes in Gabon with fruits and peri-peri sauce.
Gabon is a country with decent proximity to the Great Lake of Africa and a decent coastline. It would be criminal if there were no seafood in Gabonese cuisine.
Fish and seafood like shrimp, lobster, and crabs are widely consumed in Gabon. Different regions have different versions of many Gabonese seafood dishes. Some popular seafood includes stuffed crab, curry sauce, lobster spaghetti, and fish soup.
Soups, Stews, And Sauces In Gabon Food
Dongo-Dongo (Okra Soup)
Dongo-Dongo or Okra gumbo is the most popular soup in Gabon. This traditional Gabon food has okra and smoked fish as base ingredients.
This soup is popular across Africa, so it’s difficult to know its origin. However, the Gabonese version looks a lot like the okra gumbo of Louisiana, with similar cooking methods and flavors.
Dongo-Dongo goes well with fufu and rice. You can often order a vegetarian version of this Gabon dish as well.
This is a traditional Gabonese food originating in the country. Nkumu Ofula is made from nkumu leaves which are native to Gabon.
This soup is simple with no standout ingredient. However, the indigenous salt used to make it gives it a unique salty taste you can only get in Gabon.
Beyond regular ingredients like chili pepper and onions, some locals add fish, shrimp, or meat for added flavor and better taste.
Poisson Sale (Salted Cod Stew)
An interesting fact about Gabon is that the food is often a bit saltier than normal, giving Gabonese cuisine a unique twist. This dish is no exception.
Poisson sale is a delicious stew littered with local Gabonese vegetables like cabbage, onion, tomato, and carrot. This stew is prepared by frying these veggies and mixing them with salted cod and broth to give it flavor.
Depending on location, seafood like shrimp is also added to boost the richness and flavor of this stew. This food blends the flavor of many vegetables to create an aromatic Gabonese dish.
Salted cod can be difficult to find in other countries, but it’s readily available in Gabon, as they often salt their fish as a cheaper means of preserving them. You can enjoy poisson sale anytime you travel to Gabon.
Snacks, Light Dishes, And Street Food In Gabon
Beignets are a Gabonese food similar to the famous French beignets. This dessert is a fluffy pastry made from flour dough, deep fried, and covered with powdered sugar.
This food is loved by both young and old nationwide in Gabon. There is no obvious difference from the original French version and they are a staple dessert in many French restaurants across Gabon.
Atanga (Bush Butter Or Butter Fruit)
Atanga is a healthy food crop in Gabon best known as “bush butter.” Although the food culture in Gabon has evolved over time, Atanga has remained an integral part of Gabon’s cuisine for decades.
Butter fruit contains calcium and many other vitamins, making it a very healthy food in Gabon. With a creamy texture and tangy taste, it is used more as a food topping than a main dish.
Atanga has a similar texture to avocado, and you can enjoy it in the same manner. Deshell the fruit, spread it on your bread or snack, and enjoy!
This is a traditional food cherished by Gabonese. It’s made from edible banana flowers (banana blossoms). The peanuts add flavor to this dish and eliminate the bitterness of the banana flower.
Other ingredients like cabbage and onions are often added to get the best from this dish. For non-vegetarians, you can add seafood like shrimp or fish and meat to further boost the flavor and increase the richness of this dish.
Desserts, Pastries, And Sweet Food From Gabon
Coconut flan is a popular dessert in Gabonese cuisine. This sweet treat is made from eggs, sugar, milk, and coconut flakes. Vanilla is also added for flavor.
You can find this sweet in every restaurant and hotel across the country. As a common household staple, you will likely be welcomed with a coconut flan when you visit a Gabonese family
The dessert is creamy on the inside and flaky outside. For anyone with a sweet tooth, this is one Gabon food you should not miss out on your trip to the country.
Congo Chewies (Congo Bars)
This is a special Gabonese treat that originated from Gabon’sneighbors in the Congo. Congo chewies, better known as Congo bars, are chocolate-like treats made with sugar, butter, chocolate chips, eggs, baking powder, and vanilla extract.
Kids especially love this. It is an excellent dessert to enjoy while taking a stroll in the evening.
If you have a sweet tooth, this is one Gabonese food you should try. As the name implies, the dish consists of baked bananas.
Bananas are finely chopped, dipped into a mixture of orange juice and egg before sprinkling with breadcrumbs, and then baked to crisp. This tasty delicacy blends the breadcrumbs’ crunchiness and the bananas’ softness to perfection.
For an even better experience, try this dessert with fruit juice or a glass of milk. Toppings can be different depending on the region or ethnic group involved.
FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD
Discovering Traditional Foods In Gabon
Exploring Gabon’s cuisine is akin to stepping into a flavorful narrative woven by generations of tradition and culture. Each dish, from Dongo-Dongo to Congo bars, tells a story of the country’s vibrant landscape, the creativity of its people, and the richness of its heritage.
Although they are more friendly for meat and fish lovers, there are also great food options for vegetarians in Gabon. For those looking to embark on a culinary journey, Gabonese cuisine is sure to satisfy all your cravings and curiosities.
The joy of food is more than just the taste, it’s the experience, the connection with the culture, and the memories you make as you eat.