And by “Fried Chambo,” I mean, “Fried Tilapia.” I struggled in the authenticity category of this dish.
Chambo is a fish you’ll only find in the waters of Malawi, hence Tilapia as a substitute. Furthermore, the fish is served whole, head and all. It’s considered wasteful to throw away a perfectly edible head (it’s tasty, so I hear). I searched my local grocer for a whole tilapia fish, but found nothing to fit the ticket (because who’s eating whole fish these days, in this country?).
Furthermore, the sautéed greens known as Nwido are not completely authentic either. Traditionally, it’s made with a different variety of leaves, including cassava, pumpkin, and green bean leaves. Recipes also suggested more accessible greens like kale, chard, collards, and spinach. I used exactly that, and these hearty greens tasted delicious.
And the final component of this dish… Nsiwo. Also known as Porridge. I have been putting off making porridge for every African country we’ve picked thus far. Millions of people live off of porridge day after day, and there I was, complaining about making it for one meal. Once again, this journey gave me perspective of my privileged world.
Admittedly, I was lazy with this dish. Maybe I could’ve found some of the ingredients, somewhere in the Tucson area. I should’ve searched more markets and found that whole fish, cooking it so for the first time. Yet my new job has depleted me of some energy. I’m off kilter, and mentally consumed with the change.
This dish was familiar, yet new. Satisfying, though bland. Delicious, but very plain. I get easily caught in the web of flavor profiles, spices, and “elevating” a dish. This time, I was really pleased with the simplicity of flavors (for once). If all you do is season and spice, you forget the inherent flavors of the ingredients you’re cooking. Sometimes, salt is all you need.
- Nsiwo: ground maize, water
- Nwido: rainbow chard, kale, collards, onion, tomato, garlic, salt
- Chambo: tilapia fillets, oil, salt
S: “Porridge is the Professor Binns of food. I like dancing to African rhythms with my love.”
T: “Strangely satisfying. The leafy greens and porridge made the dish feel authentic.”
- The capital of Malawi is Lilongwe
- The official languages are Chewa and English
- Most of the population lives in rural areas (85%), making Malawi one of the least developed countries
- Lake Malawi is the ninth largest lake in the world, and holds the most species of fish in its waters
- Tanzania and Malawi are in disagreement where the northern international border between them lies due to the placement of Lake Malawi, (i.e. who claims the water? See map for dotted line). Tanzania believes the border lies in the middle of the lake, while Malawi believes the border lies along the Tanzanian shoreline