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from: Western Africa | cooking method: boiling-simmering

Palm Butter Soup

Many African recipes call for the fruit and oil of the African oil palm (Elaesis guineensis).  palm treePalm-butter is made from the fruit, which also contains the red palm oil which can be further refined. If you live outside the tropics and cannot obtain fresh palm nuts, canned palm soup base or palm nut pulp (also called sauce graine, noix de palme, or cream of palm fruit) is the same thing and can be used in the recipes below. Look for canned Palm Soup Base in International or African grocery stores. See also: See also: Abenkwan on Rare Recipes: Alice Dede; and Poulet Moambé or Poulet Nyembwe; Moambé Stew; and Palm-Oil Chop


Basic Palm Butter Sauce


What you need

  • approximately one hundred fresh, ripe, palm nuts (available only in the tropics)

What you do

Palm butter may be made in large quantities and may be frozen for use later.



Beef and Chicken in Palm Butter Sauce

A typical Western African combination.

What you need

  • one pound chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • one to two pounds beef for stew (or other stew meat), cut into bite-sized pieces
  • salt, pepper, hot pepper (to taste)
  • chile pepper, finely chopped (optional)
  • four cups of plam butter (recipe above) -- or -- canned Palm Soup base (also called "Sauce Graine" or "Noix de Palme")
  • one onion, finely chopped

What you do




Chicken and Seafood in Palm Butter Sauce

Another typical Western African combination.

What you need

  • one pound chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • salt, pepper (to taste)
  • chile pepper, finely chopped (optional)
  • four cups of plam butter (recipe above) -- or -- canned Palm Soup base (also called "Sauce Graine" or "Noix de Palme")
  • one pound dried or salted cod, soaked in water and cleaned
  • one onion, finely chopped
  • one cup shrimp or prawns (dried or fresh) (optional)
  • two fresh herrings or other small fish (optional)
  • one cup crab meat (optional)


What you do




Seafood in Palm Butter Sauce

Yet another typical Western African combination.

What you need

  • four cups of plam butter (recipe above) -- or -- canned Palm Soup base (also called "Sauce Graine" or "Noix de Palme")
  • one pound dried or salted cod (or any dried or salted fish), soaked in water and cleaned
  • one pound fresh fish: whole, fillets, or steaks
  • four to six cups shrimp or prawns (dried or fresh) (optional)
  • two fresh herrings or other small fish (optional)
  • two to four cups crab meat (optional)
  • one onion, finely chopped
  • chile pepper, finely chopped (optional)
  • salt, pepper (to taste)

What you do


More about Palm Butter Soup in the Rare Recipes pages:

Maryse Condé

For a new trade had started to develop

In Segu (New York: Viking Press, 1987), Maryse Condé describes the palm oil trade in the late 19th century.

For a new trade had started to develop, parallel to the traffic in slaves, and it was already making fortunes for merchants on the Gold Coast and especially on the "oil rivers."* The commodity they dealt in was palm oil.
Now Malobali could be seen taking droves of slaves out of the town to the palm groves and supervising their work. This consisted of climbing up the trees tied to a rope and carrying an axe between their teeth; then knocking down bunches of nuts and either loading them into canoes, or carrying them overland in baskets.
... he was getting rich with the palm nuts José Domingos let him have in exchange for his services, for he sold them to women who crushed the kernals to make red oil. Two Frenchmen, the Régis brothers, had recently arrived in the town, and talked of converting the fort into a private trading post. Oil could be stored there and sent to Marseilles, a town in France, to be made into soap and machine oil. In the long run it would be more lucrative than the slave trade.
*Name given to the water courses of the then-uncharted Niger delta.
(Part Three: A Fruitless Death)


Other African gastronomical excerpts


Joseph H. Reading

the art of making palm-butter

Joseph H. Reading's The Ogowe Band: A Narrative of African Travel (Reading & Company, Publishers, Philadelphia, 1019 Cherry Street, 1890) is a travel diary which describes a tour of the towns, trading posts, and Christian missions on the Atlantic coast of Africa. The book describes Christian missionaries making "palm-butter" which is similar to nyembwe sauce:

[at the Bolando mission on the Benita river]
... the [American] girls were initiated into the art of making palm-butter, for the manufacture of which Mrs. DeHeer [Mr. and Mrs. DeHeer were the missionaries in charge of the Bolando mission] has an enviable reputation. The bright scarlet nuts are boiled to soften them somewhat, pounded in a mortar to mash up the woody pulp, strained through a cloth, and the yellow liquid boiled to evaporate the excess of water, and then thickened with flour and seasoned with Chilli peppers. The palm-butter thus made is of a rich brown color, and has the consistency of apple-butter; it is used as a sauce or gravy on rice, bread-fruit, or any farinaceous food. It differs from the usual palm-chop in that it contains no oil or meat, and in being thickened with flour.


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