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from: Central Africa | cooking method: pan frying

Capitaine & Pili-Pili in Palm Oil

The Capitaine (Lates niloticus, or Mbuta, Nile Perch, Lake Victoria Perch) is a prized eating fish throughout Africa. It is native to Lake Chad and the Nile, Congo, and Niger rivers. In the 1950's it was introduced to Lake Victoria, where it destroyed many of the endemic cichlid fish species, inculding the Ngege. The Congolese recipe combines it with two essential elements of Congolese cooking: hot pili-pili peppers and palm oil.

boatman in guinea

What you need

What you do

As is often the case with common names, Capitaine and Nile Perch are often applied to other fishes.


Margaret Meyers

a Congolese fish needs hot Congolese peppers

Swimming in the Congo by Margaret Meyers (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Milkweed Editions, 1995) is an autobiographical novel about a daughter of missionaries in the Belgian Congo, where she sees this dialogue between a missionary and her cook:

Natana called Miss Renquist outside. He wanted her to make an offer on a Nile perch two fishermen were selling. ("The nicest kapitani I have ever seen . . .")
. . . then we sat out on the back veranda to admire the fish and listen to Natana and Miss Renquist argue over different methods of preparing it.
"Listen, Madamoiselle, you want to fix it nice and hot, with good Congolese pilipilpi pepper. You do not want that cold white sauce with the strange green bits."
"But I always have tartar sauce with my fish," Miss Renquist protested.
"Well, I think even you mindele should try new ways sometimes," Natana said, folding his arms across his chest. "And a Congolese fish needs hot Congolese peppers."
"Oh, all right," Miss Renquist said, smiling and throwing up her hands. "I will try it. But just this once, oyoki ngai? And only because I am out of tartar sauce anyway."
"Nasepeli mingi, Madamoiselle!" Natana said, grabbing both her handsand shaking them hard. "This is wonderful! You will never want that cold white sauce again, not after you have eaten Nile perch fixed the right way. I will send my son down to the market for some palm oil and fresh pilipili. It is important to do this properly!"
[Leopard Curfew]


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