Here’s another food-related post! Enjoy!
It’s the end of the long rainy season, and produce is plentiful! There are pineapples, red mangos, green peppers, spinach (it’s not the same as spinach in America…but close enough!), mangosteens, lychees, bananas galore, passionfruit, and safou. Safou is a new one for me. Before I get to safou, a note about the mangosteen and lychee. Those of you who have traveled to SE Asia are familiar with these; they are not native to Congo. They were brought over from SE Asia by someone at some point in history, and they do very well here! The wikipedia page for mangosteen needs to be updated. If you haven’t had one, they are a little weird but very tasty. Same with lychee. Also a weird fruit, but tasty.
The most prevalent product is likely cassava. It’s used in many ways, and is a daily staple food here. I’ve seen it made most often in two ways: 1) the leaves are cooked into a dish called saka saka, and 2) the root is fermented and cooked, and eaten as a side dish. It resembles….honestly I’ve been sitting here for a few minutes trying to think of what it’s resembles, but I’ve got nothing. It’s like if you took cooked rice, and compressed it together so it becomes a solid mass, and then cut it in slices. Except instead of rice, it’s cassava root. The dish is called manioc, which is also the name for cassava itself. Cassava, by the way, is a shrub. It’s native to South America, but is very popular throughout Africa. The internet says that 800 million people rely on it as their primary food staple. Congolese are definitely included in that figure.
Safou, however, is not foreign. It’s a local central/west Africa production. Our guard, Remi, asked if I’d ever had one, and I had no idea what he was talking about. The next day, he brought us a few of them. I asked Gratie, our nanny, to teach me how to make them. Raw, they are very hard. Once steamed a bit, they become soft and delicious. Gratie sprinkled salt on them. They are reminiscent of an avocado, particularly in texture, but you eat the skin. There is a big seed in the middle. Photos below.
I know, I know, doesn’t look like the most appetizing thing, but they are actually quite good. Interestingly, they are also cultivated in Malaysia. More info here.
I’ve been making amazing smoothies daily for lunch. Thanks to the amazing Nutribullet, I just throw a bunch of stuff in there, add some water, and voila! It even has the power to pulverize passionfruit seeds. Passionfruit, by the way, is my favorite. Also interestingly, passionfruit is native to Brazil, but is now cultivated all over the world. Ben says he and his brother called them “snot” fruit while they were in Ecuador. Not gonna lie, there is a snot-like element there.
This concludes your training on fruits and vegetables of the world.