Cameroon: Ndole ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฒ

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 โ€“ 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 soโ€ฆ 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 โ€“ 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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Bangladesh: Korma ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฉ

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 โ€“ 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.

Zimbabwe: Sadza with peanut chicken ๐Ÿ‡ฟ๐Ÿ‡ผ


I love porridge.

They’re great vehicles for flavor, they’re filling, they’re relatively easy to make. Pop some ingredients in an Instant Pot, push a button and you’ve got congee. Rinse some nixtamalized corn, boil it, cook it slowly and out come delicious grits. Take some stone ground oats, mix with hot water and a hot bowl of oatmeal is waiting for some maple syrup.

Porridge, clearly, is more of a breakfast food. It’s filling, and, as mentioned, is a great vehicle for bacon, eggs, sweet syrup, fruit, whatever.

That is a very Oregonian way of viewing porridge. But for much of the world, a thicker version of porridge โ€“ corn, cassava, sorghum โ€“ is a crucial staple food.

And so we have Zimbabwe, which, like much of Africa, has a national love for a corn mush called sadza. It’s similar to Zambia’s nshima and other corn-based porridge-mushes, in that it’s thicker than your average porridge, and serves as a vehicle for eating something else.

In this case, rather than suffer through more leafy greens, I found a recipe for a chicken-and-peanut dish from the Cape to Cairo cookbook, which I can’t find online but recommend picking up.

I prefer not to re-post recipes from cookbooks, but here’s a gallery of the meal:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Kenya: Ugali and sukuma wiki ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ช

Kenya flag.

Ginger, onion and pepper in a food processor.

Ahh, food processors, how do I love thee.

This has been a challenging time for Nation Plates.

There is, of course, the obvious challenge: Eleanor. She keeps us very busy! Experimenting in the kitchen is often interrupted by a hungry/dirty/bored/lonely/tired baby. She’s the most fun to hang out with, but the “frills” of life, like food blogs, go on the metaphorical back burner for the time being.

But now, with a nearly-five-month-old daughter, I am on parental leave, and I have a little more time for my own projects. Which leads to the second challenge:


The last Nation Plate was a tough one because of scale โ€“ pig bones, making my own stock, hours of time and energy invested.

My old nemesis, kale, mixed with tomatoes and onions.

My old nemesis, kale, mixed with tomatoes and onions.

This one was a challenge because of kale, my nemesis in the food world.

But the Kenyan national dish, ugali, is often eaten with a kale-like leaf called colewort, and kale or collared greens are the go-to subs for colewort in ugali’s normal accompaniment, sukuma wiki.

Compromises had to be made. I would make sukuma wiki and try some, but I also would make a Kenyan curry, kuku paka, to accompany both.

The ugali, well, it’s African corn mush. It appears in a good chunk of the continent. The sukuma wiki wasn’t awful, for kale, but I’d never eat it again. The curry was a nice touch, but rice would have been a better accompaniment than corn mush.

Mashing the ugali.

Mashing the ugali.

Ugali –ย via the Congo Cookbook

2:1 water:white cornmeal ratio

Boil water. Slowly mix in cornmeal, stirring continuously and mashing out lumps. Add cornmeal to start – even if you go above the 2:1 ratio – until you get a mush that is thicker than mashed potatoes.

Turn upside-down on a plate and serve, breaking off chunks for eating.

Sukuma Wiki – via the Congo Cookbook

  • 1ย lb of kale, chopped into large pieces
  • 2ย Tb flour
  • 1ย lemon, juiced
  • 1ย onion, chopped
  • 16 oz chopped tomatoes (’tis the season for canned tomatoes)
  • 1ย jalapeno, chopped
  • salt
  1. Add about two inches of water to a large pot. Place a steaming vessel above the water, and bring to a boil. Add the kale and steam.
  2. Combineย flour and lemon juice, and stir until smooth.
  3. Once kale is steamed, drain. Set aside.
  4. In a separate pan, add some oil. Saute the onion, tomatoes and jalapeno. Add salt to taste, then the flour/lemon mixture. Stir until smooth.
  5. Reduce heat. Add drained kale. Cover and simmer over low heat until greens are fully tender and sauce is thickened.
Clockwise from top: Sukuma wiki, kuku paka and ugali.

Clockwise from top: Sukuma wiki, kuku paka and ugali.