A Brief History of Pondu, the Republic of Congo's Favourite Delicacy

Rice, grilled fish and pondu
Rice, grilled fish and pondu | Victoire Douniama / © Culture Trip
Victoire Douniama

Ask anyone from Congo and they’ll tell you how the Congolese are known for their love of food. With a diversity of cultures in Congo, there are many different kinds of local meals that people love to indulge in and would recommend, but it is safe to agree that pondu is at the top of the list. Here we take a look at why this dish is so popular.

Background

Pondu, also known as ‘saka saka‘, or ‘feuille de manioc‘ in French, is made from manioc, derived from the leaves of the cassava plant and originally from Central and South America, primarily in the southwest of the amazon basin. It can also be found in Brazil, and in Portuguese is referred to as ‘farinha‘. The plant is now commonly cultivated and harvested in tropical and sub-tropical regions such as the Republic of Congo and many other African countries.

Cassava leaves

Nutrition and recipes

Pondu leaves are very rich in carbohydrates and are gluten-free – they can always be found in Congolese households as they are a staple used to a complete any meal. Whether it is a birthday party or wedding, or even just a Sunday meal, pondu is always on the menu. It’s not only easy to prepare, but also very affordable and easy to find in any Congolese market. This popular dish can be served at any event and is a recipe that has been passed on for generations.

In terms of recipes there are so many ways to cook pondu and so a variety of ingredients can go into making this meal, it all comes down to your own personal tastes. Most often it is accompanied by fish or meat, as well as rice, bread, fried plantain or even boiled yam.

Rice, grilled fish and pondu

The must-have ingredients needed to prepare pondu include garlic, onions, fish, green peppers, and spring onions. There are many vegetables that go into the preparation process, making it not only healthy but a flavour-filled fiesta for anyone consuming it.

Preparation

The preparation of pondu is a long process. First, the pondu leaves need to be crushed in order to create a paste-like consistency. This process is hard work, seeing as the leaves need to be first removed from their stems, washed and then cleaned. The process of crushing the leaves can be easy depending on the method used. Most people prefer crushing the leaves using a mortar and pestle, a process which usually takes up to 30-45 minutes. Another way to crush these leaves is by heading to any market and paying someone to get the leaves crushed using a special machine. This process takes about 5-10 minutes and is much more popular, as the pondu leaves achieve a much more beautiful texture and ready-to-be-cooked consistency.

Although the steps taken to cook this local delicacy might seem a bit complicated, this meal has proven itself to be top of any local’s list of favourites. With popularity and unbeatable taste, if you are planning on visiting Congo make sure you taste this African delicacy. It will definitely leave you wanting more.

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