Cameroon: Ndole 🇨🇲

Every so often, I come across a dish I dread.

It usually involves a leafy green.

I’ve had one-too-many incidents of stomach trouble after eating cooked spinach. My esophagus cringes when I smell broccoli. I straight up laugh at most kale, unless it’s fried.

Leafy greens just ain’t for me. But, still, I try – which is why I went to Mama Pauline’s African Market and picked up some frozen ndole.

The leaves sat in my freezer for months, before I had the courage to move forward. They sat in my fridge, defrosting, and I dreaded them. They looked so… spinachy.

Not helping things: the recipe I found for Cameroon’s national dish called for soaking the leaves in baking soda and water for a day.

My stomach turned again. I soaked them for two.

But I also bought the ingredients I needed, and I couldn’t let them go to waste. I drove to Beaverton to get crawfish. I bought a half-pound of shrimp. I even found Maggi, the ubiquitous flavoring sauce from much of the not-American world.

I didn’t get sick. And, in fact, I didn’t hate ndole. The meal was incredibly rich, and I couldn’t eat too much without worrying about what was going to happen to my digestion – but nothing did. The leaves had a unique, not-spinachy taste, and the seafood was tasty and hearty without being overpowering.

Recipe sourced from African Bites.



  • 1 cup shelled and peeled peanuts
  • 1 can seafood stock
  • 1/2 # shrimp
  • 3/4 # crawfish
  • 1/2 # chicken (or beef)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 large onion, chopped, divided
  • 2 Tb Maggi
  • 1 # ndole leaves
  1. Place ndole in a bowl with water, rub leaves together, rinse. Soak overnight with a ts baking soda.
  2. Fry half the onions until translucent, then add the meat.
  3. Boil the peanuts with seafood stock and 1 Tb Maggi for about 10 minutes. Cool.
  4. Drain the peanuts, reserving the stock. Put the peanuts in a food processor and pulse to a paste, adding stock to get the right consistency.
  5. Blend half the onion and 3 cloves garlic into a fine paste and add to the mixture of peanuts and meat.
  6. Pour in the crawfish and let it simmer for 10 minutes stirring frequently to prevent burns. Season with salt and Maggi.
  7. Add the ndole leaves, and simmer for 10 more minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, heat oil in a pan, add 1 clove crushed garlic, then add shrimp, stirring constantly until pink.
  9. Serve ndole on a plate with boiled plantains or cassava fufu, and put shrimp on top.

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Bangladesh: Korma 🇧🇩

For more than a decade, I searched for the best make-it-at-home chicken tikka masala recipe. I’d tried every sauce mix I could find, from jars to packets to powders, to no avail.

Then, in 2015, I took an Indian cooking class, and it all started to make sense. I could make my own curries at home! It no longer felt futile!

With my new-found skills at hand, I’ve made curry a few times – and one of my favorite versions is chicken korma, the sweet, savory, flavorful national dish of Bangladesh.

I’m not going to run a recipe here, because I straight lifted it from the New York Times, and the Gray Lady needs the clicks. But check it out. Well worth your time, and a relatively easy weeknight meal.

Algeria: Couscous 🇩🇿

Remember when couscous became a thing?

I think it was the mid-1990s, when Near East started putting boxes of the stuff on your store shelves and you could make it in 5 minutes. It was an easy way to get some weeknight carbs, a parents’ dream in a one-pot meal, and it was even, dare I say, exotic.

I loved that stuff. My family would eat it a couple of times a month. I’d keep boxes in the pantry for meals when I was cooking for myself. Pine nuts, seasoning packet, tiny semolina grains, 5 minutes, good to go.

In 1998, I was fortunate to go on a school trip to Spain, a trip that included an optional one-day excursion to Morocco for $80, and heck yeah I was doing that. We had lunch in the city of Tetouan, in a UNESCO World Heritage Site, sitting on the floor and having couscous.

It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. It was light, flavorful, even decadent.

I don’t think I ever ate another box of instant couscous again. I knew what I had available to me in the states was not even comparable to what I had in Morocco.

For some reason, it never occurred to me to try to learn how to make a better couscous, until I got up to Algeria in the Nation Plates project. That’s when I started to learn about this fascinating dish: It’s gently steamed to cook, water and oil mixed in with the couscous before put over a hot pot. And then it’s steamed again. And again.

It seemed challenging, and it took some improvisation – particularly in finding a receptacle to steam fine-grain couscous. I used a strainer, which was imperfect but sufficient.

Recipe sourced from Halal Home Cooking, with some edits.

Lamb Merguez Couscous

  • 2 Tb olive oil
  • 1 # merguez sausage
  • 1 1/2 medium onions, finely chopped or grated
  • 1 ts Ras El Hanout
  • 1 ts ground cumin
  • 1 ts ground coriander
  • 3/4 ts fine salt
  • 1/2 ts ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 ts ground black pepper
  • dash of harissa paste, or to taste
  • 4 1/4 cups water
  • 2 carrots, washed, peeled and sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, washed, trimmed and sliced
  • 1/2 # fine couscous
  • 1 Tb extra virgin olive oil, divided plus more for greasing steaming basket
  • 1 2/3 cups water, divided
  • 1 Tb unsalted butter
  • Stew

    1. Over medium heat, warm oil in your cookware. Add merguez and brown on all sides. Remove and set aside, leaving fat in the pan.
    2. Reduce heat to medium low, adding the onion and caramelizing, stirring often.
    3. Return the meat to the pot, along with the spices, stirring to incorporate. Add water, and increase heat to medium-high, bringing to a boil.
    4. Simmer for 40 minutes.
    5. Add vegetables, and simmer for another 20 minutes.
  • Couscous

    1. In a large bowl, add the couscous and stir in 1/2 Tb of olive oil, mixing to coat the grain evenly. Add in 1/4 cup of water, and mix to coat.
    2. Grease the inside of a fine-mesh strainer and pour in the couscous. Place in the pot, suspended above the cooking liquid, and cover, steaming for 10 minutes.
    3. Remove the strainer, and pour the couscous back in the bowl. Separate the grains, add a pinch of salt, a 1/2 cup of water, and return to the strainer, putting it back in the pot for another 10 minutes.
    4. Remove the strainer, pour back into the bowl, separate the grains and add 3/4 cup of water. Stir in the remaining oil and butter. Steam for another 10 minutes.
    5. Serve the couscous on a large platter, then add the meat mixture on top.


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