Thursday, January 27, 2011


Nshima with relish (Miwzenge S. Tembo, Ph.D.)
Because I like food and find anything new and exotic interesting, I'll try it (barring, of course, some proteins that I might not be able to stomach). I have been wandering cyberspace in search of different Zambian foods in preparation for my volunteer placement, and came upon some informative articles about Zambians' staple foods.

It seems that Zambians rely on tubers and grains for their main dish, nshima, sort of like rice in the Philippines. Rice is used in various ingredients, including deserts, but is eaten most commonly as the plain, boiled form. Like Filipinos, Zambians eat nshima with side dishes, which has been most plaintively called "relish" (ndiwo). Like the "ulam" for Filipinos, the purpose of the relish is to accentuate nshima, rather than to dominate it. Ndiwo are usually made from poultry, dried kapenta fish, or wild greens. These ingredients are sometimes simmered into tasty stews, not unlike the meal illustrated in the photograph highlighted in this blog.

In an earlier blog, I mentioned that maize has become a staple for Zambians because it seems to grow well in the wetter, northern regions of the country. For this reason, nshima is most commonly made from maize, although other vegetables, such as cassava, potatoes, or sorghum, have also been made into nshima.

The relatively inexpensive price of maize also contributes to its status as the Zambian staple and iconic value in Zambian culture. Apparently, the cultural status of nshima is equivalent to the taro in Native Hawaiian society in that Native Hawaiians view themselves as having come from the taro plant. Perhaps to assert that Zambians are nshima is premature at this point - I haven't made it to the country, yet. But, Dr. Tembo implies this when he describes the preparation of nshima as being a community affair.

Also like the Filipinos, Zambians have traditionally eaten with their hands. Washing one's hands, therefore, is important for cleanliness and is a moral ritual. 

Dr. Tembo offers this rather simple recipe to try.
4 Cups Water
2 Cups plain corn meal
Boil 4 cups of water in a pot. Gradually add the corn meal into the boiling water until the 2 cups have been added. Stir the mixture until it boil sand thickens.Once the mixture has thickened, simmer for 3 to 5 minutes.

The preparation of ndiwo is somewhat more complicated, as the wild greens have to be cured and intricately prepared to get the right texture. I suggest reading Dr. Tembo's blog to understand how to do this:

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