Monday, May 18, 2015

La Sauce de Gombo- Cote D'ivore

This class made me try out things that qualify me to take part in West African conversations. Cote D'ivoire was once just a small country in between Liberia and Ghana, in the African maps that we used to cram for our history exams.

This time, we were cooking Francophone African cuisine, so I had to cook something from this country. The challenge was that nearly all the recipes on youtube were in French. I followed the steps to different recipes and settled on okra soup- sauce de gombo.
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My choice of Okra was based on the fact that in my community and the Western Kenya communities, Okra is used as a vegetable substitute for Apoth- a slimy vegetable that accompanies several other greens such as cow peas leaves. Enough of the Luo cuisine, let's not digress from the main reason of this post- francophone cuisine.

Okra soup is common in most West African countries. During my research, I found out that it is a delicacy in Nigeria, Togo, Senegal and Cameroon. I almost gave up on the meal because it was not an exclusively Ivorian dish. I later settled on it because of the familiarity with Gombo- Okra.

Looking for okra was not a problem, I went to Wakulima market at the entrance of Nairobi's CBD. You can never miss rare vegetables here because it serves as a wholesale area for most of the vegetable vendors in Nairobi. I bought Okra, Coconut, tomatoes and other groceries. It was while at the market that I learnt of where to get plantains- the retail market.

My decision was edited because I did not want to use chicken, dried fish and meat together. I instead settled on beef only. Friday morning I woke up to cooking. I made my rendition of okra soup in coconut milk. Though it looked slimy, the aroma and taste were awesome. Walking to the gate having packed the meal, I could still smell the contents of my package. It resembled our neighbors' cooking. There are two brothers who live downstairs (I recently learnt they were from Cameroon). Those brothers can cook, so such aromas are a common thing with their kitchen window.

Serving the soup in class was another funny ordeal. Some ate it while others looked at it and chose to pass because of the slimy presentation. I had to carry the remainder back home. I did not mind carrying it back because Judy, my friend wouldn't mind tasting it. She had a lot of questions concerning the amount of okra that I was intending to use on beef stew. Well, I was wrong, she could not even taste it due to the slime.

I later learnt that to reduce the slime, one should wash the okra and let them dry before chopping.

Two weeks later, our neighbor was cooking meat with okra. It reminded me that one man's meat is another man's poison. That was a good platform to start a conversation, we had something in common-we both loved Gombo. Me: So where do you buy palm oil? Neighbor: Just here in Buruburu, next to Safaricom...

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