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Yassa A La Poulet – Republic of Congo National Dish – Day 76/Dish 41

March 29, 2010

We only need to take a river ferry across the Congo to reach the other side and our next country. As mentioned in the last posting, DRC is not to be confused with ROC or Republic of Congo. The two nations share the name of the river that gives them both transport and commerce, but are fundamentally very different places.

Known by the names Congo, Republic of Congo or Little Congo, ROC is a significantly smaller nation than DRC. With a population of just over 3 million, Congo is about 1/20th the size of its southern neighbor in terms of population.

Located to the northwest of DRC, both countries rely on the river for many parts of daily life and share similarities in history and culture. The primary difference is that from the time of independence till the early 1990’s, Congo was a single party Marxist Leninist State. In DRC, this same period was marked by the rule of the corrupt Mobutu and his US backed anti communist regime. No matter what ideology is followed, the period of time between the 1960’s and 1990’s was a mythological power struggle between the cold-warring giants of the United States and the Former Soviet Socialist Republic (U.S.S.R.) with both sides pushing to influence emerging nations to support their ideologies and conquests.

Unlike the wars between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes of Eastern Africa, the ethnic conflicts in Congo stem from the Bantu people and the Pygmies that live there. Traditionally the Bantu have maintained power and the Pygmies have played a servile role. Today this includes modern day slavery and oppression in various forms.

In the period following independence in 1960, Congo has experienced a number of dictatorial leaders with little to offer in terms of economic development and progress. Although Congo is financially in better shape than its neighbor DRC, it still maintains a standard of living below the international poverty with the average being around $3500 dollars per year per capita. In the DRC that numbers is closer to $200 dollars per year. A large part of the economy of Congo relies on agriculture and petroleum exports. It is also marked by corruption and overstaffing which results in budgetary issues.

Congo is influenced by multiple geographic features including the Congo River and the heavily forested swampy regions that are home to its estimated 125,000 Lowland Gorillas. The steady equatorial climate keeps a consistent temperature year round and conditions are good for agricultural activity. One of the leading agricultural products of Congo is the Cassava Root. This root has a role similar to rice, corn, and wheat in that it becomes a staple part of the diets of the areas where it is prevalent. In the Central African Republic, the dish called Cassava or Manioc Sticks is a standard part of the diet and is considered the national dish. We have previously discussed the great difficulty in processing the Cassava root in order to extract toxins that occur naturally within it.

Cassava leaves

The national dish of Congo was originally from Senegal and is enjoyed throughout western Africa. Yassa is a dish of meat marinated in Lemon Juice preferably overnight in order to soften the tough protein strands of the local chicken species. It can also be made with fish. The result is a first stage cooking similar to ceviche where acid acts as the cooking agent. The second stage of searing and stewing the meat results in tender fully cooked meat in a tangy sweet salty and spicy sauce that is a refreshing change from savory stews.

I give this dish a 3 for difficulty because of the overnight marinating of the chicken. Otherwise it is simple to prepare. After reading several different preparations and in actuality preparing a slightly different version of the recipe (without the browning of the meat) I decided to include this recipe which I believe will give a slightly better result) This is the first and only time I will not include my original recipe and will publish an untested one. I believe the browning of the meats will result in a tender less chewy outcome. I also did not have the full time to soak the meat overnight. This too would have produced less tough meat as the acids would have broken down the bonds in the protein strands if I had allowed a longer soak. I did about 4 hours, which is the minimum recommended. I now suggest you extend that minimum to 6 hours but overnight soaking would still be better.

CLICK HERE FOR A PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION

Rating:

Appearance: 3 out of 5

Aroma: 3 out of 5

Flavor: 4 out of 5

Total: 10 out of 15

Ingredients:

1/2 cup peanut oil (or any cooking oil)

1 chicken, cut into serving-sized pieces

4-6 onions, cut up

8 tablespoons lemon juice

8 tablespoons vinegar (cider vinegar is good)

1 bay leaf

4 cloves minced garlic

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (optional)

1 tablespoon Maggi seasoning sauce (or Maggi cubes and water or soy sauce) (optional)

1 chili pepper, cleaned and finely chopped (optional)

cayenne pepper or red peppers

black pepper

salt

1 small cabbage, cut into chunks (optional)

2 carrots, cut into chunks (optional)

Preparation:

Mix all ingredients (except the optional vegetables), the more onions the better, and allow chicken to marinate in a glass dish in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.

Remove chicken from the marinade, but save the marinade.

Cook according to one of the following methods.

Cooking method 1: Grill chicken over a charcoal fire (or bake it in a hot oven) until chicken is lightly browned but not done.

Cooking method 2: Sauté chicken for a few minutes on each side in hot oil in a frypan.

While chicken is browning: Remove onions from marinade and sauté them in a large saucepan for a few minutes.

Add remaining marinade and the optional vegetables and bring to a slow boil, cooking the marinade into a sauce.

Reduce heat.

Add chicken to the sauce, cover and simmer until chicken is done.

Serve with Rice, Couscous (couscous with chickpeas and raisins is very good), or Fufu.

http://www.recipezaar.com/Poulet-Yassa-Chicken-Yassa-from-Africa-14936

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 29, 2010 10:50 pm

    What a fun site! I am enjoying it very much! Don’t know much about Africa (other than Egypt and the Maghreb) and love to learn more! Thanks!

    • March 30, 2010 8:10 am

      Thank you so much for your comment and interest! One of the reasons I started this project was to explore the geography and history that I wasn’t taught in school. The food of course was the first impetus, but oddly it seems to wind up as much about the country as the food. I am really happy to welcome you to the journey. Keep the comments coming, I love the response!
      Cheers,
      Eric
      BTW Lebanese Food might be my favorite overall cuisine. Might be because of my wife’s Palestinian Heritage?! Nice blog. Care to swap links?

  2. March 29, 2010 11:07 pm

    We made a version of this not too long ago! It’s really good. Really, really good.

    • March 30, 2010 8:26 am

      I fully and thoroughly concur with your statement. I want to play with this when I have the time to let it soak longer. Unfortunately with a every 2 days minimum to research and cook and write, I barely have the time to keep up! Wish us luck! Really happy to have you guys as friends. I enjoy your blog very much, great spirit of joy running through it…

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