What is the Way to a Zambian’s Heart?

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Nshima. That is the way into a Zambian’s heart. The staplefood of all Zambians. Nshima in the Chichewa language basically means cornmeal grown from maize flour and is known locally as mealie-meal. Zambians cannot live without it. In fact, any meal that does not contain nshima is considered to be a mere snack. Personally, I sometimes think that about meat.

It’s interesting to note nshima does not originally come from Africa but was imported from the Americas between the 16th and 17th century. So how did it become so popular? Well, it must be a darn good dish. To make it you must cook maize with water like you would porridge making sure it is the right thick consistency with no lumps. Then, with clean hands, tear bits of the nshima off and dip it in either a soup, a stew or a sauce.

One sauce I can recommend is Ifisashi. Nshima and Ifisashi is probably what most Zambians would call a real meal. Just to make it clear, Ifisashi is basically greens in peanut sauce, so if you, fellow lingo-lunch reader, are an allergic, stay away. But if you’re not, here’s how to make it. Chop and grind a handful of peanuts until they turn into powder. Boil a few cups of water then add the peanuts, tomatoes and onion. Easy peasy. Then reduce heat, stir in greens of choice and add salt. Cover it, cook it, stir it, for no longer than an hour. Cook it so much that the sauce and the veg will become into one big sauce. If the goods become dry or start to scorch then add water. Make sure you keep an eye out.

To get back to Nshima. The mealie-meal comes in bags of 25 kg which, it is said, can feed a family of six for up to a whole month. It costs around four pounds and Zambians absolutely love it. They love it so much there is a foodiquette to govern how to eat it. Before the meal is serviced, a bowl of water is passed around the table or on the floor surrounding the meal, everyone washes their hands and then start to make small patties out of the dough before dipping into the relish. I know I only shared the recipe of one relish but generally Nshima is almost always eaten with two side dishes, a protein one – usually meat, poultry or fish or peanuts, vegatables (Kale, quite frequently) or cabbage. The sides are known as Ndiwo or Umanani in Chichewa. Wherever you are in the world, try give this African delicatessen a go. You’re bound to experience something new and exciting, it’s a promise.


2 thoughts on “What is the Way to a Zambian’s Heart?

    warero said:
    November 26, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Reblogged this on warero.

    don't confuse the narrator said:
    November 29, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Goodness! I had so forgotten nshima. I ate it in November 1979 (staying near Chingola) and was reminded of instant mashed potato. Not in a good way.

    And now I’ve also remembered the ‘potato pudding’ that a Malaysian friend gave me a recipe for a couple of years before that: mashed potato beaten with sugar and then steamed, I think. Also not destined to be a favourite.

    Which is surprising for a carbo-hydra-holic. Maybe I should give them another chance.

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