Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day 39-Congo(Brazzville)(AF) and Congo Democratic Republic (Kinshasa)(AF)Liboké de Poisson (Fish in Banana-Leaf) and Fufu - Up Next, Costa Rica(NA)

Opening up a fresh package of banana leaves is like Christmas

I decided to make a meal combining Congo and Congo Democratic Republic because I was able to find dishes both countries enjoy, which felt fair.  Locating the ingredients was easy as well, although I did have to go to a tropical market in Framingham to find the banana leaves which my local grocery store was out of.

Awesome tropical market in Framingham - no website available
One of the best things about going on an unexpected adventure is seeing everything with fresh eyes, and that feeling of excitement when finding a new market  full of surprisingly great and unusual food. I could have spent hours exploring every isle in Seabra, but didn't have much time. I'll definitely be going back as this store specialized in Brazilian and Latin American foods.

Congo (Brazzaville)(AF) and Congo Democractic Republic (Kinshasa)(AF):  The Republic of the Congo  also known as Congo-Brazzaville, Little Congo, or simply the Congo, is a in Central Africa. It is bordered by Gabon, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly known as Zaire), the Angolan enclave province of Cabinda, and the Gulf of Guinea.These two countries are seasonally split--half lie above the Equator; half below the Equator. As you can see by the map, the two countries are neighbors. Sadly, both countries are beset by crushing poverty, corrupt and mismanaged governments and constant political unrest. Despite all this, both countries share tremendous ethnic and cultural pride which is reflected in their cuisine.

Congolese cuisine is based on starches such as the cassava root, corn, and plantains; green vegetables, insects, fish and, to a lesser extent, meat. The staple of cassava came from the Americas, and the Congolese grow this important tuber along with a wide variety of vegetables and peanuts.

Congo's staple food, the cassava plant, is not native to Africa, but was probably introduced from South America by the Portuguese 300 years ago. Cassava root is the source of tapioca!

Typical Congolese meals consist of a starchy food with sauce or stew. Cassava is the principal starch, particularly in rural areas. It may be replaced by rice or corn if they are available. These basic foods are served mostly as a thick stew or porridge, flavored with a spicy sauce. If they can afford it, people may add fish or meat to the stew. and
Yams and plantains for fufu - banana leaves for fish
Marinate fish (I used Talapia) in onions, fresh lemon juice, cayenne, tomato and parsley
Cut and stack 3 banana leaves - place fish in center
Fold as you would a burrito

Tie with kitchen string
3 beautiful packets - 3 fillets each
Fufu - boil equal parts sweet potatoes and plantains til soft
Mash with potato masher-add a little butter
Cook packets on grill - my pit was perfect - or in oven
Open packets to reveal beautifully steamed fish!
The Congolese use their fingers to scoop up a ball of Fufu, then dip and scoop the fish - Divine!
 The Recipes

Liboké de Poisson (Fish in Banana-Leaf)

Leaf cookery is common throughout the world's tropical regions. In Central Africa, both whole fish and fish filets are cooked in leaf packets over grills or charcoal fires. Throughout the Congo River area, the Lingala word, Liboké (plural, Maboké) is often used to refer to this method of preparation; Ajomba (or Jomba) is the name nearer the Atlantic coast. Poisson en Paquet is French for Fish in Packet. Leaves of banana or marantaceae (or marantacee) plants give the food a certain flavor that will be missing if they are not used, however aluminum foil can be substituted. Outside the tropics, look for (frozen) banana leaves in International, Asian, and Latin American grocery stores

What you need
  • banana leaves
  • two to four pounds of fresh fish (either whole, or cut into filets, steaks, or pieces); in Africa freshwater fish are typically used
  • one or two onions, finely chopped
  • juice of one or two lemons
  • salt (to taste)
  • black pepper (to taste)
  • cayenne pepper or red pepper (to taste)
  • oil (just a spoonful)
  • one tomato, chopped and crushed (or canned tomatoes) (optional)
  • a few okra, chopped (optional)
  • a bunch of sorrel leaves (optional)
  • one Maggi® cube (crushed) or a spoonful of Maggi® sauce (optional)
What you do
  • If you are cooking a whole fish:
    Prepare a marinade by mixing together the oil, chopped onion, lemon juice, salt, black pepper, red pepper (and any optional ingredients you choose). Clean the fish, but leave the scales on, and cut a few gashes lengthwise on each side. Pour the marinade onto the fish and into the gashes. Let marinate in a glass dish for a quarter hour.
  • If you are cooking fish filets, steaks, or pieces:
    In a glass bowl combine all the ingredients (including the optional ingredients) except the fish and mix well. Add the fish and let marinate for a quarter hour.
  • Warm the banana leaves for a half-minute in a hot oven, or on a grill, or in a pot of boiling water. This makes them easier to fold. Remove the center rib of each leaf by cutting across it with a knife and pulling it off. Cut the ends off each leaf to form a large rectangle.
  • Fold the banana leaves to completely enclose the ingredients in a packet two or three layers thick. (Use something like the burrito folding technique. Depending on how many leaves and how much (or how many) fish you are cooking you may want to make more then one packet. Use oven-proof string to tie them closed.)
  • Cook the packets over an outdoor grill, or in an oven. (If using an oven, you may want to place some aluminum foil under them to catch drips.) Turn them every ten minutes. After half an hour carefully open the packet and check to see if the fish is cooked, if it is not, close the packet and continue cooking.
  • Serve in the packet with some Baton de Manioc (also called Chikwangue) or Fufu.
Note: the banana leaves should not be eaten.


Fufu (Foo-foo, Foufou, Foutou, fu fu) is to Western and Central Africa cooking what mashed potatoes are to traditional European-American cooking. There are fufu like staples all over Sub Saharan Afiica: i.e., Eastern Africa's Ugali and Southern Africa's Sadza (which are usually made from ground corn (maize), though West Africans use maize to make Banku and Kenkey, and sometimes use maize to make Fufu). Fufu is a starchy accompaniment for stews or other dishes with sauce. To eat fufu: use your right hand to tear off a bite-sized piece of the fufu, shape it into a ball, make an indentation in it, and use it to scoop up the soup or stew or sauce, or whatever you're eating.

In Western Africa, Fufu is usually made from yams, sometimes combined with plantains. In Central Africa, Fufu is often made from cassava tubers, like Baton de Manioc. Other fufu-like foods, Liberia's dumboy for example, are made from cassava flour. Fufu can also be made from semolina, rice, or even instant potato flakes or Bisquick. all over Afria, making fufu involves boiling, pounding, and vigorous stirring until the fufu is thick and smooth.

  • two to four pounds of yams (use large, white or yellow yams; not sweet potatoes, not "Louisiana yams"); or equal parts yams and plantain bananas
  • one teaspoon butter (optional)
What you do
  • Place yams in large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook until the yams are soft (maybe half an hour). Remove pot from heat and cool yams with running water. Drain. Remove peels from yams. Add butter. Put yams in a bowl (or back in the empty pot) and mash with a potato masher, then beat and stir with a wooden spoon until completely smooth. This might take two people: one to hold the bowl and the other to stir.
  • Shape the fufu into balls and serve immediately with meat stew or any dish with a sauce or gravy. To eat it, tear off a small handful with your fingers and use it to scoop up your meat and sauce.
Final Assessment: We LOVED this meal! It was extremely easy to prepare, and took very little time. I didn't have sorrel, so substituted parsley from my garden. I also omitted okra, only because I'd forgotten it. The yam and plantain fufu was delicious, and a very nice deviation from rice, which we've eaten a lot of while cooking in Africa. We'll mos def eat this again.

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