International Cooking: Food from Gabon

Small African countries like Gabon are some of the hardest to find dishes for during this challenge. The subreddit hadn’t seen any activity for 3 years and I had to request permission to post, which has generally never gone well for me even on active subreddits. So I had to rely on my own research.

Gabon is located on the west coast of Central Africa, on the equator. Like many African countries, it used to be under French rule, which has influenced Gabonese cuisine. Gabon gained independence in 1960, but the official language is still French.

Gabon has the fifth highest GDP per capita in all of Africa, largely a result of oil production. However, it is estimated that the oil in Gabon may run out by 2025, so the country is currently making plans for that.

What Do People Eat in Gabon?

Gabonese cuisine is similar to that of the surrounding Central African countries, with strong French influences, mostly when it comes to pastries such as beignets.

Staple foods include cassava, rice, and yams, and some form of these are present in most meals.

Meat isn’t always easily available, but chicken and fish are most common, followed by bush meats such as antelope, wild boar, and monkey (yes, monkey, apparently!) Meat is often dried and fish smoked, in order to preserve it for longer.

A wide range of tropical fruits are available, and some common ingredients in dishes are plantains, cassava leaves, tomatoes, corn, and eggplant.

Main meals often consist of vegetables or meat with a flavorful sauce, served with rice or cassava in some form on the side. The national dish is nyembwe chicken, which I did not make since it is a version of chicken moambe, the national dish of both Congo countries, and I already made that. The chicken is cooked in a hefty amount of palm butter, which some recipes say can be substituted for peanut butter (which is not traditional, but works). The Gabonese recipes seemed to focus more on the palm butter being important, but otherwise the dishes are nearly the same.

What I Made

Mustard Chicken

Mustard Chicken

This dish is also often called ‘French Mustard Chicken’, but I don’t feel like it’s really that French. I did use Dijon mustard for it though, and that’s French! It’s probably the kind of mustard that is used in Gabon too.

This is a simple dish. First I sautéed some sliced chicken thighs to brown them, then set them aside. Then I added onion and garlic and cooked them for a while, before adding lemon juice and chicken stock to deglaze the pan. I added a hefty amount of mustard, then returned the chicken to the pan, and cooked for about 15 minutes or so until the sauce reduced and thickened a bit.

This was great, but I like mustard. Anyone who does will probably like this dish, because it doesn’t taste like much else. I served it with rice and some of the Gabonese cucumber and tomato salad I made, next entry.

This recipe is from Foods of the World, but I used Dijon mustard instead of the yellow mustard used there, and chicken thighs instead of chicken breast.

Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Many countries have their own version of a cucumber and tomato salad, often including onions and herbs too. Gabon’s version is made of cucumber, tomato, onion, parsley, lemon juice, cumin, olive oil, and a little mint.

I’m not sure I liked the cumin here, even though I used a little less than the recipe called for. I think I prefer a salad like this with something heavily spiced, but I like the salad itself to be mild and refreshing, if that makes sense.

To make this, I followed a recipe from Cooking with Alisa. I used a little dried mint instead of fresh though, since I didn’t want to buy a bunch of fresh mint just for the tiny amount I would use here.

Poissons en Sauce aux Arachides (Fish in Peanut Sauce)

Poissons en Sauce aux Arachides (Fish in Peanut Sauce)

I’ll be honest—fish in peanut sauce didn’t really appeal to me. I like fish and I love peanut butter but I wasn’t sure how well they would go together. The only other ingredients were onion, tomatoes, and oil to brown the fish.

I was surprised to find that I actually liked this. I used cod for the fish, which I think worked well because it doesn’t have a strong flavor of its own, so it mostly just tasted like peanut butter.

This recipe is from Margarita’s International Recipes.

Final Thoughts

There weren’t many dishes this week, but the ones I made were pretty good. I liked the mustard chicken the most.

Next week, I will be cooking food from The Gambia.

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