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The national dish in the Congo, moambe is a type of African stew. Usually made with vegetables, spices, and chicken, any type of meat may be used, including wild game. Moambe is also a term for the special sauce, make from African oil palm, that is used in this and other dishes.
The vegetables in moambe are usually green and leafy, such as spinach or kale. The stew will also include tomatoes, which may be fresh or canned, but are always diced. Seasonings and spices include chili or cayenne pepper, onions, and lemon or grapefruit juice. Salt is generally added to taste when the dish is complete.
Some recipes may also include nutmeg, butter, and tomato sauce. Moambe may also be made as a sauced chicken dish, rather than a stew, by using whole chicken parts, like legs. When using chicken in the stew, a whole chicken is still often used, it is simply cut off the bone and into pieces.
Moambe also includes the greenish moambe sauce. The sauce is made from the fruit of the oil palm. The fruit is boiled, and the skin and seeds are removed so just the pulp remains. Often this sauce is just called palm butter because its consistency is similar to that of dairy butter.
If palm butter is unavailable, vegetable oil can be used. Peanut butter is also a common substitute for moambe sauce as well. In fact, many nontraditional recipes call for peanut better rather than the sauce. Although most people consider this stew moambe when made with peanut butter, technically it is called muamba nsusu.
To make moambe, the meat is cut into pieces and added to the juice and pepper or other spices in order to marinate. Once the meat has marinated, the onions are cooked and then the meat is browned with the onion. The tomatoes and water are included after the meat browns. Finally, the palm butter and the greens are placed in the pot, and the stew simmers for about an hour.
Often those recipes which use peanut butter instead of palm butter do not marinate the meat first. The meat may instead be boiled or simmered for about an hour with just salt and pepper for seasoning before the other ingredients are added. Alternatively, the spices, onion, and tomatoes may be sautéed then boiled chicken and broth can be included and simmered before the peanut butter is added. If making the chicken dish rather than the stew, the whole meal is then baked.
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