An East African specialty

One thousand and five hundred years ago the ancestor of the matoke were brought from Asia to Africa. They took root, in a manner of speaking, grew, and flourished, quite separately from their cousins. They became something very special: the East African Highland banana, a staple of food in Eastern Africa. On the flight to Nairobi I’d watched a potboiler of a movie about two people whose love life is thrown (temporarily) off the rails because the girl can’t cook matoke to the liking of the mother of the boy. One should not read too much into a movie, but this must say something about how basic the matoke is to the daily life of East Africa.

So I was very happy to find a dish of matoke, looking roughly like what I’d seen in the movie. They are a very flavourful starch, which explains their centrality to many East African kitchens. This dish was entirely vegetarian, but there is a famous beef stew with matoke. I liked the flavour and the spicing; not so different from Indian food. Typical recipes call for the banana to be cut into thick disks and boiled. The whole banana must be hard to cook that way; I thought from its taste that it could have been partly baked before being cooked into the curry. No matter how it was prepared, this was something I wouldn’t mind eating again.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.


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