Food is an essential part of culture, and that is no different for us here in the Central African Republic. There are many delicious meals and recipes, and we have some really talented cooks on the Ndara team!
Those who read our blog about the many languages we have in the Central African Republic might not be surprised to learn that each ethnical group (yes, all 77 of them!) also have at least one traditional dish that originates from their geographical region in the country.
Availability and access to produce is highly dependent on where you live in the country and the season. In some regions, people do not dare to go to their fields to collect food, as rebels and local militia hide in the bush around the villages. Instead, they cultivate small patches around their houses. In other regions, the fields have been completely abandoned as villages have had to flee several times in a row – making it impossible to grow food there. While some of you might think, surely this is a temporary situation. Unfortunately, it isn’t.
Since 1996 (and some would argue even before that) violence has ebbed and flowed in the Central African Republic. It shifts geographically depending on who is fighting who and on the weather. Conflict usually reduces in the rainy season when roads are bad and fighters have trouble moving around. Violence will move from the north to the east, then some months later to the west, and then to the center. And so it goes on, crisscrossing its way across the country.
What some would think is temporary, is actually a life-long reality for Central Africans, and they have adapted to it. Seasons of peace and abundant food change to seasons of flight and insecurity.
For the large majority of Central Africans food is a luxury. Even in seasons of abundance everyone is still acutely aware of the privilege it is to eat every day, making each meal a particular joy.
With our 14 artisans it’s hard to find one dish that everyone really likes. But we have found one such dish – ngbudu na nyama na kpi! This literally means amaranth leaves with peanut butter and meat. As the ingredients (or a version of them) can be found almost anywhere in the world we thought we would share the with you:
Ngbudu would ideally be served with gozo. Gozo, or manioc, is the staple food of the Central African Republic. Made out of cassava flour, it’s a thick paste that you can break into pieces with your fingers and dip in the sauce.
If gozo is not up your alley (while we LOVE it, it’s a bit of an acquired taste. We say it tastes like heaven, other says it tastes like sweaty socks...), or if you can’t get it where you live, then other excellent options would be boiled sweet potatoes, rice or fried plantain bananas.
Traditionally, we eat sitting around a big bowl of sauce and a big plate of gozo. Everyone eats from the same dish, using only the thumb, index and middle finger of your right hand to break off a piece of gozo, form it into a ball and then dip it into the sauce while aiming to fish up a chunk of meat. The chili is fished out and put on a separate plate so the ones who like their food hot can dip their food in it.
If you read the fun fact and wonder how we do with the chili at Ndara? Let's just say we make sure to put down the chili on the ground or the table. Better safe than sorry, according to us!