Recipes and Food
She Brings the Meals of Wakanda to Life
In 2018, Marvel released the first Black Panther film to audiences around the world. It’s since become one of the most popular Marvel films, inspiring fans around the world to find their inner superhero.
Nyanyika Banda is one woman who has brought the Black Panther universe to life in an unexpected way — through a cookbook. She’s the author and recipe developer behind Marvel's Black Panther: The Official Wakanda Cookbook, a new way for fans to celebrate the legendary superhero.
Banda drew inspiration from over 50 years of the comics and media representations, along with recipes, ingredients, and culinary techniques from across Africa, to present the world of Wakanda in new and delicious ways.
Food Meets Fiction
The cookbook follows the fictional story of Ndi Chikondi, executive chef at the royal palace of Wakanda, a character who weaves together various flavors, dishes, and culinary techniques for readers to explore.
A Malawian American chef and food writer, Banda also uses her vast knowledge of African history and its connections to current countries and diaspora communities to educate the world about cuisines from this region of the world.
She uses engaging storytelling to dive into the significance of ingredients such as okra, hibiscus, and cassava (yuca). She introduces readers to recipes such as sweet and spicy oxtail, and muhammara — a savory dip made with roasted red bell peppers, garlic, walnuts, pomegranate, and molasses. The village-style curried chicken she included draws inspiration from a family recipe Banda grew up with.
There is also a handy chart at the beginning of the book that outlines which recipes are appropriate for various dietary needs.
Researching the World of Wakanda
According to a profile on TODAY, Banda rose to the challenge of developing meals fit for the most technologically advanced country in the Marvel universe. She tirelessly researched the details of Black Panther beyond the film, going as far back as the ’60s.
“There’s this whole backstory of coming up with how we got to that point where Black Panther is being introduced to us as readers, as a fan base,” she explains in the TODAY profile. “So it was interesting to see that that story already existed through the world of [Black Panther’s] web fan base, so that was pretty cool to discover and learn about those.”
A Rising Voice in the Culinary Industry
The Official Wakanda Cookbook is also an important mark in the history of female Black enterprise and leadership. For Banda, combining her passions and sharing them with the world felt significant and powerful — for herself, her industry, and her community.
“While signing the preorders, I met a 10-year-old girl whose mom told me she had started writing,” Banda posted on Instagram. “We chatted and took a picture together. I told her that I was also in the third grade when I began writing for enjoyment. This was the first glimpse for me of what the power of this cookbook holds.
“I look forward to spreading the food of the Wakanda Nation and meeting more young writers,” she says.
Perseverance and Growth
Banda has been celebrating the release of her first publication, as well as acknowledging the personal challenges she’s overcome in the process. Restaurant closures and adjustments due to the pandemic hit her and her colleagues especially hard.
“I’m proud to say that after a year of not working in a restaurant — the first when I was 15— I was able to battle the thoughts of suicide to send my CV to the editors of this project,” she writes on Instagram. “I want all of my restaurant family who have suffered great loss to know that we have the strength to get through this.
“It certainly is going to look and feel different than two years ago,” she continues, “but I encourage you to use your talents and knowledge and see if you can pivot it into something still meaningful.”
Banda’s book is available for purchase online and on the shelves of select bookshops, including the Smithsonian Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. She’s also organizing a book tour, with plans to visit cities and Black-owned bookshops across America.
The Bottom Line
Banda is paving the way for new generations of storytellers, chefs, and superhero fans to learn about and enjoy the diverse world of African cooking. With her help, the Marvel Universe can come to life in a new, deliciously creative way.