Sombe: the Central African delicacy
SOMBE is a delicacy enjoyed by almost every family in Rwanda and neighboring countries of Burundi and Democratic Republic of Cong but who knows where it originated? Manioc also known as cassava or yucca originated in South America, probably Brazil according to research.
Due to its exceptionally hardy nature and ability to grow in poor soils and with little care, spread throughout the tropics and eventually on to the South Pacific and then to all of tropical Africa. Both the tubers and leaves are eaten.
Sombe is widely popular among central or western Africa, also called for Saka-saka (western Africa) or Mpondu (in Lingala) depends on tribes.
Sombé contains the young, green leaves of manioc. The leaves have high amounts of Vitamins A and C; ½ a cup of cooked sombé provides half of the daily Vitamin A requirements of a young child.
Manioc leaves also contain iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium – all very important minerals in central Africa because very little meat is eaten.
The tubers of manioc are also an important source of carbohydrates and moderate protein and are the 3rd most important staple food in Burundi, after bananas and sweet potatoes. Recipes for manioc tubers are found elsewhere on the page.
Sombe is sold almost in all market places and hawkers also sell it. The sauce is truly a delicacy in many homes.
Jennifer Kayima is a caterer. She says that, although sombe is a delicacy, it is costly to prepare. “For one to cooks sombe and make sure it is tasty one has to enough fire or charcoal to make sure it is cooked for several hours”, she explained
“If we are to cook sombe we have to start cooking it early in the morning until midday if we at to serve it as meal for lunch” she says.
It is also one the delicacies that will not miss on the menu of most of the restaurants in town, Jane Uwamahoro, who operates a restaurant in Kimironko, said sombe is one of the vegetables that doesn’t miss on the a day’s menu.
Uwamahoro explains that during a bumper season a kilo of pounded sombe some goes for Rwf 300 while during scarsity a kilo is sold for between four and five hundred. “Some buy the leaves and pound but I don’t have time for that so I buy the pounded one” she continued.
After cleaning, the coarse leaves are either finely chopped or pounded in a large, wooden mortar with a long pestle.The recipe for sombe is a bit time consuming and elaborate. This is what you need to prepare sombe:
1 kg young [less than 2 months] manioc leaves (can use mustard or another coarse green), coarsely chopped, ½ kg goat meat, bone-in and chopped into small pieces, 2 lg onions, coarsely chopped,2 green pepper, coarsely chopped ½ kg intoré (indigenous eggplants), coarsely chopped – or use ‘domestic’ eggplants,1 leek, coarsely chopped,1-2 red (hot) peppers – whole, ½ c finely ground dry peanuts – skins off, 3 T palm oil, salt & pepper, to taste.
If one has to pound the sombe one has to: Clean the manioc leaves and remove from stocks, pound manioc leaves, leek & onion in a mortar until completely broken down can use a food processor. Put in a large casserole & cover with water cook about 40 minutes Add meat, oil, eggplant pieces, green pepper & red (hot) pepper, Add more water to cover, if necessary continue cooking about 1 hour or until meat is tender Add ground peanuts Cook for 2 minutes only Add salt and pepper to taste.
Sombe in most cases is served with rice, manioc pate, beans cooked in a tomato sauce with eggplants and hot sauces are common accompaniments. Fried plantains and fried manioc may be prepared as side dishes.