International Meals – Equatorial Guinea

There are no fewer than four “Guinea” countries in the world: Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Papua New Guinea.  Why?

Imperialism!  Also racism.

“Guinea” was the English form of the Portuguese word for the region on the west side of Africa.  No one’s really sure where THAT word came from..  But thanks to colonialism, there was a Portuguese Guinea, a Spanish Guinea, French Guinea, and even a German Guinea.

Those became, respectively, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, and Togo plus bits of Cameroon.  But what about Papua New Guinea, which is in (checks notes) not Africa? Welp, some super racist Spanish explorer decided that the inhabitants of Papua New Guinea looked like west Africans, and decided to give it the same name.  Great.

The subject of today’s meal, Equatorial Guinea, is a bit geographically improbable.

Map of Equatorial Guinea

Most of the country is on land, except for two islands, which are nowhere near each other, and in fact, have an entirely different country separating them. The capital of the country, Malabo, is located on the northern island.  Having your capital off on an island away from most of your landmass?  What a silly idea.  *mumbles in British Columbia*

Equatorial Guinea is the only independent country in Africa which is majority Spanish speaking. It’s also, in a continent full of governments left in bad shape by colonialism, one of the worst offenders in terms of human rights.  As in so many cases, the presence of substantial oil reserves has not helped the democracy situation much.  Heck – look at Texas.

But enough politics.  What about the food?  Well, the extended riff on politics and geography is going to help cover the fact that our Equatorial Guinean meal consisted of probably the simplest dish to make we’ve done so far, and so this entry is going to be pretty darn short.  The dish in question is a fish stew called “Pick a Pepper Soup.”

First – a trip back to our spice hookup for another new ingredient. Grains of Paradise.  These things are also known as Guinea Pepper, so that’s a good sign, right?  Except that Guinea Pepper is strictly speaking some OTHER random spice, also known as  “Grains of Selim.”  So we’ll stick with Grains of Paradise.

Grains of Paradise

These are the seeds of a plant closely related to ginger and cardamom. You treat them like you would black pepper – dump them in a spice grinder or mortar, and mash them up to make a powder.

Ground grains of paradise.

Then, you put them and literally every other ingredient in the pot all at once.

Stew ingredients
And you cook it for an hour.  After an hour, you put in a tiny, tiny, amount of oil, then cook it for another five minutes.  I have absolutely no idea why.  And that’s it.  That’s the whole recipe.

Here it is cooking:

Equatorial Guinean Stew Cooking

And here it is on the table, with a decidedly non-Guinean beer.

Equatorial Guinean Stew on the table.

And that’s it.  Just, dump it all in the pot, cook it all together, done.

So how does it taste?  Delicious, actually!  In addition to the Grains of Paradise, the stew also contains cayenne pepper, a scotch bonnet pepper, and black pepper, so it’s got some bite to it.  The snapper was firm enough to hold up to the seasoning and cooking time, and the vegetables soaked up the flavors nicely.

We’re definitely going to be looking for more ways to use the rest of this jar of Grains of Paradise.  However, I DON’T think Equatorial Guinea is going to be at the top of the destination list when *waves vaguely at everything* ends.

Next up, we remain in Africa, but cross to the east side to visit Eritrea.

Pick a Pepper Soup

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