Cooking to music is nothing unusual, but mixing ingredients while footage of a funeral is projected onto a big screen might sound macabre. Not at the Africa Centre, in Tsim Sha Tsui. On screen, women in traditional Congolese liputa dresses dance to drum beats that fill the room along with the smell of frying onions. Elsie Zepho is conducting a Congolese cooking workshop. It’s been a while since she danced to the beats of her Republic of the Congo home, but it’s clear she has forgotten none of her moves. “On the screen is a funeral and dance is part of the ceremony,” she says. “At my father’s funeral – he was a musician – there was a lot of dancing and music. It’s a celebration of life.” Zepho lost her job as a restaurant manager when the Covid-19 pandemic forced the venue to close. A chance meeting with Innocent Mutanga, who lives in her building, led her to the Africa Centre, of which Mutanga is a co-founder. Each of the centre’s regular cooking workshops focuses on a different country. Having recently hosted a class on Burundian cuisine, a course on Zimbabwean food is scheduled for June 20, while upcoming events cover much of the rest of the continent: Senegal (July 5), Rwanda (July 18), Chad (August 2), Nigeria (August 8) and Ghana (August 22). The Congolese class is a mixed bunch, with guests from Hong Kong, America, Japan, Australia and Somalia. The only common thread is that they live in Hong Kong and want to taste Congolese cuisine. Zepho is preparing three dishes, including kisoulu , a peanut stew with spinach and dried fish – catfish in this case – that’s been soaked overnight in salt water. It can also be made with chicken or fufu – a combination of cassavas, yams or plantains – that have been boiled, pounded and rolled into balls. Also on the menu is loso – rice flavoured with nutmeg, bay leaf and onion – and fried plantain known as makondo . “I got this plantain from a local market but it’s not the same as at home; they are softer and brown quicker when peeled,” says Zepho, who adds that her culinary dream is to open a restaurant serving the flavours of Africa and including a produce section selling difficult-to-source ingredients. The onions cut, the garlic pounded and the fish deboned, it’s time for a sit-down feast with the group. The three-hour cooking workshops at the Africa Centre cost HK$400 per person.