Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sombe - Manioc Leaves & Goat Meat in a Hot Sauce

(Burundi; Rwanda; Eastern Congo)

Manioc – known also as cassava or yucca – originated in South America – probably Brazil – and due to its exceptionally hardy nature and ability to grow in poor soils and with little care, spread throughout the tropics and eventually on to the South Pacific – and then to all of tropical Africa. Both the tubers and leaves are eaten.

Sombé, the dish explained here, is popular in central Africa. It contains the young, green leaves of manioc (cassava; yucca). The leaves have high amounts of Vitamins A and C; ½ a cup of cooked sombé provides half of the daily Vitamin A requirements of a young child. Manioc leaves also contain iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium – all very important minerals in central Africa because very little meat is eaten.

The tubers of manioc are also an important source of carbohydrates and moderate protein and are the 3rd most important staple food in Burundi, after bananas and sweet potatoes. Recipes for manioc tubers are found elsewhere on the page.

After cleaning, the coarse leaves are either chopped fine or – as here in Burundi – are pounded in a large, wooden mortar with a long pestle.

The following recipe for sombé is a bit time consuming and elaborate, and is therefore usually made for a celebration.


1 kg Young [less than 2 months] manioc leaves (can use mustard or another coarse green), coarsely chopped
½ kg goat meat, bone-in and chopped into small pieces
2 lg onions, coarsely chopped
2 green pepper, coarsely chopped
½ kg intoré (indigenous eggplants), coarsely chopped – or use 'domestic' eggplants
1 leek, coarsely chopped
1-2 red (hot) peppers - whole
½ c finely ground dry peanuts – skins off
3 T palm oil
salt & pepper, to taste


  • Clean manioc leaves & remove from stocks
  • Pound manioc leaves, leek & onion in a mortar until completely broken down [can use a food processor]
  • Put in a large casserole & cover with water
  • Cook about 40 minutes
  • Add meat, oil, eggplant pieces, green pepper & red (hot) pepper
  • Add more water to cover, if necessary
  • Continue cooking about 1 hour or until meat is tender
  • Add ground peanuts
  • Cook for 2 minutes only
  • Add salt and pepper to taste

To Serve:

Rice, manioc pate, beans cooked in a tomato sauce with eggplants, and hot sauce are common accompaniments; fried plantains and fried manioc may be prepared as side dishes. The traditional method of serving and eating is as follows:

  • Mound rice or manioc pate on a very large tray
  • Mound bean-eggplant mixture on top of the rice
  • Put little mounds of sombé greens around this
  • Place meat chunks all around
  • Pour sauce from the casserole over the top
  • Place tray in the middle of a table
  • Invite guests to sit, giving each a large spoon
  • Guests eat out of the common dish, selecting what they wish
  • Have a large bowl of clean water beside, for people to wash their hands as necessary

Follow the meal with millet beer, banana beer or banana wine and fruit.

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