On Sustainable Gastronomy Day, we will explore the ancient cuisine the bijagó culture in Guinea Bissau.
On June 18, it is celebrated the International Day of Sustainable Gastronomy, whose objectives are to support agricultural development, guarantee food security and nutrition, promote the production of sustainable food, and ensure the conservation of biodiversity.
In the Bijagó archipelago, its gastronomy has remained unchanged and retains its original flavors. Its inhabitants have followed and maintained traditional agricultural methods respecting their natural ecosystem. Only in this way is it possible to enjoy a true sustainable gastronomy, worthy to celebrate today.
All what is cooked by its population comes from its own agriculture, animal husbandry or fishing: rice, cassava, peanuts, sweet potatoes, yams, beans, chickens, goats, pigs, barracuda, grouper and mullets, among others.
They have known how to integrate what their land could provide to their cuisine, such as badjiki. This plant is a sort of willow leaf very rich in iron. Normally, it accompanies the rice dishes of the bijagó. One of the tastiest dishes is the fish roasted over a wood fire, that is fished in a very artisanal way, using a net. First it is seasoned with salt, lemon and garlic, and left to rest for an hour. Then it is roasted on an ember that maintains the heat so that it is done slowly on both sides. The real secret is patience. It is accompanied with onion sauce and rice from its own traditional cultivation. The flavors are intense and please even the most demanding palates.
The combe, a small mollusk similar to a clam, is collected in the afternoons. There are women collecting them and transporting them in baskets over their heads under the sunset on the beach. It is a very local and fresh product and that is why it needs very simple cooking: boil it first and sauté it later with a little garlic and palm oil, salt and parsley.
Both dishes are some of the specialities of the Orango Parque Hotel, the only hotel within the Orango National Park, in the Bijagó Islands. Many visitors come to taste this and many other delicious and sustainable dishes.
The hotel is a responsible and sustainable ecotourism project whose mission is to bring tourists closer to the reality of local culture with knowledge and respect for the conservation of biodiversity. This initiative has been collaborating with the bijagó community for a decade to preserve its culture and protect its ecosystem. It has developed several projects in the area with this purpose. Apart from allowing its visitors to taste a typical bijagó menu, it collaborates with the protection of the population’s rice crops. This way it is generated a sustainable cycle of local production, the conservation of gastronomic traditions and guarantees the nutritional food for its population.
All hotel guests can celebrate their end of stay with a bijagó feast of fresh wood-roasted fish, caldo de mancarra (peanut sauce with chicken and local legions), and a tasting of mangrove oysters. Of course, you have to be careful, we use a small bijagó chile that we reduce it a bit, it gives that recognisable touch of bijagó cuisine.