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from: Central Africa | cooking method: pan frying

Fish & Onions in Tomato Sauce

A simple Central African way to prepare any whole fish. Fish, stuffed with onions and/or peppers then pan-fried, seems most popular along the Atlantic coast of Africa.

the enya (wagenia) and manyanga people use fish traps attached to scaffolds built over the congo river rapids

What you need

What you do

Senegal's Ceebu Jën and and Mulet Farci à la Saint-Louisienne are more eleborate dishes which employ a similar stuffed fish technique.


Richard Francis Burton

Kinnau is fish opened, cleaned, and stuffed with mashed green pepper

Richard F. Burton, the great 19th century traveler, writer, and translator, described something similar, but made with green pepper; in Wanderings in West Africa (New York: Dover Publications, Inc, 1991 "Two Volumes bound as One"; originally published by Tinsley Brothers, London, 1863).

En revanche, the fish and stews were admirable; the former is the staple supply of the coast and the old residents live upon it.* "Kinnau" is fish opened, cleaned, and stuffed with mashed green pepper, and fried in palm oil. The oil used for these purposes must be freshly made, thoroughly purified by repeated boilings, till free from water and fibre; the sign of readiness is a slight transparent yellow tint, supplanting the usual chrome colour.

*The fish is mostly a kind of herring, of which large quantities are cured and sent to the interior, even as far as Ashantee. Turtle is turned in the Hamattan season, beginning with December; after March they breed and are unfit for food.
(Volume II, Chapter IX, A Pleasant Day in the Land of Ants [Accra])


Other African gastronomical excerpts


Robert Hamill Nassau

An Extreme Longing for the Onion

Onions are common in African cooking, all over the continent, but this has not always been true. In My Ogowe: Being a Narrative of Daily Incidents During Sixteen Years in Equatorial West Africa (The Neale Publishing Company, New York, 1914), American missionary Robert Hamill Nassau wrote that onions were rare in equatorial central Africa in the late nineteenth century: (The Mpongwe was an ocean steamer operated by Woermann, a German shipping and trading company. It was named after the Mpongwe people, a Bantu ethnic group in equatorial Africa.)

In the United States, I had eaten onions, but never with any longing, though I was always told that they were a very healthful article. In Africa, and especially towards the end of my terms, when strength was failing, I had an extreme longing for the onion. They were not grown by the river tribes, and I could get them, only as luxuries, from the ocean steamers. On that 18th [of November, 1878] I had obtained some from the Mpongwe. I enjoyed them extremely. (Chapter XVIII -- On the Kangwe Hill-Side -- October, 1877 - January, 1880)


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