Monday, October 16, 2006


A while ago a fellow member of a certain mailing-list angrily called me a "sakasaka witiman".

Which reminded me of food.

Sakasaka is normally found only in the tropics. If you can pick fresh sakasaka, select the smaller, younger leaves; the larger ones are tough and old. If sakasaka is not available, you may substitute kale, spinach, collard, mustard or turnip greens, or similar leafy vegetables.

Cooked sakasaka:

A big bunch of cleaned sakasaka.
One onion, chopped.
A tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped.
One or two cloves garlic, minced.
One or two mild peppers, minced.
A palm-size piece of dried smoke-fish (substitute a tin of sardines, especially of you are British).
Three or four TBS palm oil.
A pinch of salt, and a pinch of wood-ash.

Chop and thoroughly bruise the sakasaka (and I do mean bruise - whack it with a rolling pin or a mallet). Simmer with plenty of water for an hour or two (the sakasaka should lose its toughness and fibrous quality). One the sakasaka is palatable, add everything else, and cook till the liquid is much reduced and the mass has become pulpy. Eat with fufu or rice.

Adding cooked white beans, lady fingers, or eggplant chunks to the sakasaka is authentic, popular, and good.

Note I: Sakasaka in Sranantongo means despicable, odious, worthy of revulsion. It is probably not related to sakasaka in Congolese.

Note II: Sakasaka in the context of food are cassava greens (feuilles de manioc), known by that name in the Congo, and as mpondu in other parts of central and western Africa. Cassava is also called manioc and yucca.

Note III: If you cannot find palm-oil, use moambé sauce (aka mwambe or nyembwé). Moambé sauce is a flavourful greasy pulp made by boiling mashed palm-nut fruits and straining out the kernels and skins. If even moambé sauce is unavailable (where ARE you living?!?!), just toss in some canned palm-soup concentrate (noix de palme, or sauce greine) into the pot.
Palm-oil, moambé sauce, and palm-soup concentrate add that authentic flavour to African foods - all are also good with meat stews and fricasseed chicken.

Some people add a scoop peanut butter or some coconut milk, either in addition or in-lieu of - this too is good.

Note IV: The pinch of wood ash gives it the flavour of the crude salt used locally - a tiny pinch of baking soda is also good in this regard.

Note V: Fufu are West-African dumplings, very comparable to Surinamese Tongtong. Whatever starchy product is used (polenta, plantains, yams, manioc, etcetera) is first boiled till edible, than pounded to a paste resembling stiff mashed potato, and rolled into balls. These then are either dumped into soupy dishes (rather like matze-balls), or served as the staple on the side with the main-dishes and vegetable dishes, portions to be pinched off and sopped with the greens or sauces.

The mash can also be spread in a baking pan, brushed with butter or oil and browned a bit under the broiler. Depending on how moist it is, it can be then cut or scooped.

Surinamese usually use plantains as the dumpling material, as is also very common in Ghana and Dahomey. Tongtong fu bana (plaintain dumplings) in pinda brafu (peanut soup) is a wonderful party dish wich is sure to elicit cries of delighted regognition from not only your Surinamese guests, but also any West-Africans you invite. Just remember to use a good rich chicken broth as the base of the soup. A few fresh whole green chilies floated in the soup during the last twenty minutes of cooking will add their resinous perfume but no heat (remove carefully to prevent them breaking and releasing piquancy) - aficionados may eat them with their meal.

Afterthought: You need some piripiri with this. If your local market does not carry piripiri, pound fresh Thai birdseye chilies (or long Tabasco peppers) with a little salt, and make the pulp saucy by thinning it with vinegar.


Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

but where can you find all these African ingredients that are kosher?

(i.e., everything but the raw plant matter)

The back of the hill said...

Does it persé have to have a heksher to be kosher?

Imported food stuffs have to pass department of agriculture and a few other testing, and customs does spot checks to ascertain that what the label says is indeed what the product is - with no deviations or inclusions. Perhaps after due investigation of these matters a vaadharabbonus could pasken that such things met enough criteria that they could be considered kosher or pareef?

It's worth looking into. Canned palm-oil is not wine.

What do you think? And do any other readers have ideas?

The back of the hill said...

Dried smoke-fish (substitute a tin of sardines, especially of you are British).
Or substitute a certified kosher fishy product that has a strong smoky-salty taste.

palm oil
This might be problematic and require the input of a vaad ha kashrus.

Moambé sauce
Same issue as palm-oil.

palm-soup concentrate (noix de palme, or sauce greine)
Same issue, with possible clarification due to US agriculture, import, fda, and customs regulations.

Note: for palm-oil, moambé sauce, and sauce greine, if no kosher versions are to be found, and no possek is willing to pasken, a similar effect (though not a similar taste) can be achieved by the addition of some roasted almond-butter or walnut paste.

peanut butter
Kosher brands.

coconut milk
Has already been dealt with, I believe. Some shtrenge rabbonim consider it as milchik, based on its similarities and uses. Though logic would say that no one could be caused to err by the example of a coconut milk user - the aroma and appaerance of the finished dish, even a coconut curry, are strong indicators that this is not normal Jewish food.

chicken broth
Kosher brands.

Kosher brands.

SSWM said...


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