International Cooking: Food from the Congo

There are actually two Congos – the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC or Congo-Kinshasa, formerly Zaire), and the Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville). I originally planned on keeping them separate for this challenge, but I was finding it difficult to find dishes that were unique to one or the other. In fact, it was hard to find many dishes at all, because there were many that are enjoyed in the Congo but really belong to one of their neighbors. I posted about this on Reddit and someone confirmed that the cuisine is similar if not the same, and no one would be offended if I combined both Congo countries. So here we are with the Congo to finish off the ‘C’ countries!

Both Congo countries are located in Central Africa, with Congo-Brazzaville located to the northwest of the DRC. There is a long history which follows a typical pattern for many African countries, where they were once inhabited by native people before becoming colonies. Congo-Brazzville was a French colony while the DRC was a Belgian colony, however, both are now independent. They were never actually the same country, but were both named after the Congo River, which flows along their shared border and into the DRC.

What Do People Eat in the Congo?

As far as food goes, both Congo countries share many similarities with other countries in Central Africa. Rice, cassava, legumes, plantains, and a variety of vegetables are common staples. The countries encompass a rather large area, so ingredients vary depending on which region you’re in.

Fish is widely consumed, mostly coming from the Congo River, its tributaries, and various lakes. It can be baked, boiled, or fried, or smoked or salted to preserve.

When it comes to meat, goat is the most common, but there are also dishes that use other kinds such as chicken and beef. Even some insects such as grasshoppers and caterpillars are eaten. Meat is expensive, so meals often don’t include it.

One popular dish I didn’t make is saka saka, also known as pondu. It’s a kind of stew based on cassava leaves, but those would be too difficult for me to get so I skipped it.

What I Made

Dongo Dongo (Okra Stew)

Dongo dongo

This is an okra-based stew that can include fish or meat, but okra is the primary ingredient. I added some cod to mine. It was easy to make and also includes onion, chili, garlic, Maggi sauce, and tomato paste. I thought this was alright, but as I’m sure I’ve said many times throughout this challenge, I don’t think I like okra that much.

The recipe I used is from The Congo Cookbook.

Caakiri (Couscous Pudding)


Caakiri is mostly eaten in the Congo and West Africa, though I’ve also seen it mentioned as a dish in the northern and southern parts of the continent. It’s essentially a mixture of fermented milk and grains and is similar to a rice pudding. Caakiri was originally made with readily available grains such as millet, but couscous is more common these days.

This is an easy dish to make, especially since couscous cooks so quickly. First I cooked the couscous. Then I made the milk mixture and combined it with the couscous, before serving topped with crushed pineapple. The recipe I used included evaporated milk, Greek yogurt, sour cream, sugar, vanilla, and nutmeg in the milk mixture. This may not be entirely authentic, but I thought the end result was pretty good! Raisins and mint can also be used as toppings instead of or in addition to the pineapple; there are likely other common variations too.

This recipe is from The Foreign Fork.

Moambe Chicken and Fried Plantains

Moambe chicken

Moambe chicken is the national dish of both Congos. The chicken is usually cooked in a sauce based on palm butter or cream, but peanut butter can be used instead for a less traditional, yet still delicious dish. That is how I made my moambe chicken, though I did use palm oil as well since I still had it from previous African countries. Aside from the chicken, the other ingredients are onion, garlic, tomato, cayenne pepper, and paprika. Although this dish was very easy to make, it tasted really good. The peanut butter was not overpowering, but I could still taste it.

I served this with plain white rice and fried plantains, both common sides in the Congo. When I have made fried plantains before, I’ve used green plantains, but someone in the Congo subreddit suggested I use ripe. I have to say, that’s not something I will do again! The ripe plantains had a faint banana flavor and I hate banana. They also didn’t fry up crispy the way the green plantains do, and I didn’t really like their sweetness. Obviously, there are people who do like ripe plantains, but I am not one of them and will be sticking to green ones in the future!

If you’d like to make this, I used the recipe from Low Carb Africa, though I used boneless skinless chicken thighs since that’s what I had on hand.

Final Thoughts

This was an alright week. I enjoyed the chicken moambe the most, and the caakiri was pretty good too.

Next week, I will be cooking food from Denmark.

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