de Angelis D., Madodé Y.E., Briffaz A., Hounhouigan D.J., Pasqualone A., Summo C.
Street food plays a recognized socioeconomic role, offering opportunities of employment particularly for women and providing cheap food to lower income people. West Africa is characterized by a great diversity of traditional foods, widely consumed but poorly investigated. Ata is a fried dough made of cowpea flour, very popular in Benin. In Southern Italy, popizza is prepared in a very similar way as ata, but using wheat flour. This work aimed at comparing the main physicochemical characteristics of ata and popizza, from the raw material to the end product. Cowpea flour showed significantly higher levels of proteins (23.25 vs. 13.48 g 100 g−1 on dry matter), total phenolic compounds (0.73 vs. 0.41 mg g−1 of ferulic acid d.m.), antioxidant activity (2.84 vs. 0.86 μmoL Trolox g−1 d.m.), as well as higher water absorption capacity (1.01 vs. 0.61 g water per gram flour) and particularly higher water solubility index (23.01 vs. 6.69 g 100 g−1) than wheat flour. The two flours showed different pasting characteristics: starch swelling occurred at a lower temperature in cowpea than in wheat flour and produced a less viscous gel. Due to absence of gluten and limited viscosity of starchy fraction, ata was less porous and more springy than popizza. Moreover, ata showed higher oil uptake than popizza (22.2 vs. 14.1 g oil 100 g−1 product) and was also characterized by a browner surface than popizza. Knowledge about the quality features of these traditional foods and their raw material could enhance their market- ing, with positive effects on local economy.