The bikalga is a condiment made through fermenting the seeds of Hibiscus sabdariffa , a species native western Africa, also known as “oseille” in Burkina Faso. This plant is traditionally grown by women, and it is common for each one of them to have their own field of “oseille”, where these trees also serve as a natural enclosure.
Bikalga is its name in the Mooré dialect, while in the Bwamou dialect it is called papo and in Niger it can be found under the name of dawadawa botso.
Just like the soumbala, another condiment made through fermenting néré seeds (which can also be found on the Arca del Gusto), bikalga is one of the most popular traditional condiments used in the cuisine of Burkina Faso. It is used to season the sauces of to, a typical dish of the Mossi people, boalboala, a type of millet flour couscous, in rice dishes and in general in soups and salads.
The seeds as well as the leaves are used as a seasoning, but bikalga is usually prepared using only the seeds: they are washed and then boiled for a minimum of 12 hours. Then the boiled seeds are filtered and left to ferment for some days, after which they are ground and fermented again. At the end of the fermentation process, the result is dried. Then it is shaped into small balls and fried. The resulting balls are of a dark color and have a very intense aroma. When used in the kitchen, they are dissolved in the cooking water.
Some peoples, like the Bissa, also use bikalga to cure eye infections and intestinal problems. Just like other traditional seasonings, bikalga has to compete with other, industrially prepared condiments, which are easier to use.