Olá! The last few months were pleasantly busy, culminating in our June 1 move to a new apartment in Cambridge, Mass., with little time for globetrotting. Now that we had settled in, however, our thoughts turned to the next country in the alphabet: Angola. This African country shares a colonial past with Brazil, Mozambique, Cape Verde, and other former regions of the Portuguese empire. More recently, it has emerged from a decades-long civil war to become one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa.
Jess kicked off our adventure on Saturday morning by whipping up a delicious breakfast of arroz doce (Portuguese sweet rice), served in Angola on special occasions. You can find the recipe here. Like a true Angolan, Jess created a beautiful geometric design on top of the rice using cinnamon.
Made with milk, sugar, and lemon, the rice was indeed sweet and creamy. After breakfast, we got a look at the capital city, Luanda, in this short slideshow we found on Youtube.
While there does appear to be an Angolan restaurant called Luanda located in Brockton, Mass., the journey seemed long and the menu wasn’t very vegetarian-friendly. (Like other cultures with a Portuguese influence, Angolans eat a lot of seafood and meat.) We also considered going to some Portuguese restaurants that were closer to Boston. In the end, we realized that the Brazilian menu at Cambridge’s own Muqueca offered a similar type of Portuguese-inspired cuisine to what we might find in Angola itself. The restaurant’s namesake specialty is the moqueca, a popular seafood stew with Portuguese and African (possibly Angolan??) origins.
You can see our Brazilian/Portuguese/Angolan lunch from Muqueca in the photo above. Clockwise from the front is Jess’s plate of rice, my fish moqueca (stew), my bowl of pirão (fish gravy), my plate of rice, and Jess’s tofu and plantain moqueca (stew). The restaurant uses traditional clay pots to stew the moqueca.
On our way to Muqueca, we passed through the 35th annual Cambridge River Festival happening in Central Square—just around the corner from our apartment! We didn’t have time for a close look, but I couldn’t help noticing that items for sale at one of the festival stalls had an African theme:
For dinner that night, we chopped up some turnips, sweet potatoes, onions, zucchini, and tomatoes, plus chickpeas, couscous, and raisins, to make an enormous Angolan vegetable soup (recipe here).
Our evening entertainment was the one and only Angolan film that we could find available at a Boston-area library. Entitled Na cidade vazia (“Hollow City,” 2004), the Portuguese-language film tells the tragic tale of a young boy’s experiences in Luanda after fleeing his native village amidst Angola’s bloody civil war.
After the movie, we translated this Angolan recipe for doce de banana from Portuguese into English to make “sweet bananas,” a syrupy mixture of sliced bananas, caramel, and cinnamon that we Americans thought would have been even better as an ice cream topping:
The two of us weren’t able to get through the entire bowl of sweet bananas that night, so we saved the rest for a breakfast of leftovers on Sunday morning, which also included the remainder of the sweet rice and some fresh fruit. Later that morning, we taught ourselves an Angolan children’s game called ware using some dried beans that we found in the kitchen:
The game was very similar to other African mancala games that we ourselves had learned as children. Unfortunately, I lost to my lovely fiancée after only a few rounds.
Our quest for what could pass for an Angolan dessert led us next to the Padaria Brasil Bakery across the river in Allston. Inside we found two items that we’d also spotted on a list of popular Angolan desserts: passionfruit mousse and a flan.
We spent much of the afternoon strolling along the esplanade back towards our apartment, but once inside we learned more about Angola in an hour-long documentary called Made in Angola.
On Sunday evening, for our final Angolan meal, we cooked up another translated recipe for feijão com óleo de palma (beans with palm oil). For this recipe, I substituted canola oil for palm oil and corn for the optional chunks of mackerel. As the recipe directed, however, I placed a ripe banana on top.
As you can see in the photo above, we ate the beans with rice and some of the leftover fennel salad from lunch. Delicioso!
Jess and I were excited to resume globetrotting after a few weeks’ hiatus, and to do so in our new Cambridge abode. Angola gave us a number of firsts out of the countries we’d visited so far: not only was it our first Portuguese-speaking country but it was also our first in the Southern Hemisphere. Finding Angolan food and culture in the Boston area proved somewhat difficult (we passed on the chance to take Capoeira Angola lessons—a Brazilian martial art) but we did find a lot of interesting recipes and better acquainted ourselves with the Portuguese-speaking world as a whole. So as they say in Angola, it’s the voyage that matters, not the ship!