A Tasty Congolese Relish with Manioc Leaves – Isombe y’umwamba

Cooking palm nuts to soften the nuts for oil e...

Image via Wikipedia


Yesterday I went out into the parcel’s garden and noticed that both palm oil trees have nice clumps of palm oil kernels that are growing.  They should be ready in a couple of weeks, when I’ll do another blog about their use here in central Africa.

The following blog details a very popular use of manioc leaves cooked in palm oil, and manner of extracting oil from the kernels that is still found in some areas of the county –

The following recipe – ‘Manioc leaves with crushed palm oil kernels‘ – is popular throughout central Africa and combines three of the most important local ingredients – manioc leaves, fresh oil from palm nuts, and ground nuts.

Batwa men operating a traditional oil palm press in the eastern Congo

Here are the ingredients – quantities are pretty much up to you:

Fresh manioc leaves –
Oil palm nuts –
Fresh peanuts –
Garlic –
Palm oil
Red pepper –
Salt –

Preparation requires a bit of work. First, you must collect a basket of tender manioc leaves:

Tender, young cassava/manioc leaves

Then, you need to pound the manioc leaves into a paste, like this:

Pounding the manioc leaves can take a couple of hours, and is a task often shared by several people.  This is Eileen, daughter of one of the staff, pounding manioc leaves.

In the meantime, send your menfolk off to collect a bunch or two of fresh palm nuts:

Oil Palm nuts. 

You prepare the oil palm nuts by removing the flesh from the kernels and pounding it – then, you squeeze the crushed fibers between your hands, using the liquid, but throwing away the fibers.

Groundnuts you’ll probably have to buy fresh at the local market, unless you raise them yourself:

Groundnuts, not quite ready for harvesting. Source: Global ministries

Shell the groundnuts and crush them into a powder.

The garlic and leeks are not indigenous to central Africa, but were introduced during the colonial period and now are featured in many local dishes.

They are pounded together with the cassava leaves, once the leaves have been fairly well mashed.

The oil palm liquid and groundnut powder is also added and pounded/mixed in.

Some people also add tomatoes and green peppers.

The final mixture looks something like this:

Pounded manioc leaves. Source: shianlotta, flikr

The best way to cook is in a clay pot, but increasingly folks cook in aluminum pots, like this:

Isombe being cooked to the left, goat meat to the right, by project staff preparing for a wedding feast

You can add a little palm oil to the pot – but not too much, because you’ve already extracted some oil with the liquid of the fresh palm nuts.

Isombe y’umwamba (which means manioc leaves with oil palm) is always eaten with a pate – a thick porridge – and often in this manner:

Sorghum pate with isombe y’umwamba as a relish

Isombe is frequently served at the Hotel Lac Tanganyika, by way of presenting a much-loved traditional dish that is highly nutritious – and tasty!

Thanks to Yolanda, who asked me about this recipe here.


About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
This entry was posted in Africa-General, Cuisine, Food, Hotel Club du Lac Tanganyika2, Recipes, Technology and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to A Tasty Congolese Relish with Manioc Leaves – Isombe y’umwamba

  1. Huska hersch says:

    New posts via email. Thanks


  2. Pingback: Batwa Pots in Burundi: Traditional Clay Pot Cuisine, Pt. 2 of 2 « Dianabuja's Blog

  3. carogreg says:

    Lived there for four years. Delicious in various combinations and methods of preparation.


  4. Yolanda says:

    Thanks! and Yum! …Though I’ve only ever had it from an aluminum pot, so maybe I am missing out.

    I had another conversation about this recipe the other day and someone suggested that they enjoyed adding eggplant to the mixture as well.

    Thanks again!


    • dianabuja says:

      yes, like so many dishes, after you get past the base ingredients, different folks will add items to their taste – or, perhaps, just what is available in the garden or in the house. I imagine indigenous eggplants – garden eggs – would be best to use.


  5. I wish I could try it! I can find all ingredients here, except manioc leaves. 😦


    • dianabuja says:

      You could use collard greens – or any greens that are fairly coarse and somewhat piquant – or, have a ‘strong’ taste.


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