Is there anything more satisfying than the smell of fresh cut onions and peppers, seasoned meat baking in the oven, and plantains frying on the stove?
I don’t believe so, especially when you are surrounded by people who have a love and passion for travel, culture, and food, and a host that is so warm and inviting you just want to linger a little bit longer than you should…
“Our food isn’t different,” says Godee, “We just cook it using different methods.”
Our Congolese Cooking Class began with a quick introduction about our hosts/home Chef Godee and her husband, Prosper. Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, they journeyed to the U.S. in 2008 for a better life for their children. Godee was pregnant with their first daughter when they arrived to the States, and without knowing any English, they immersed themselves into the culture and they have created a better life, one they are proud of!
After our introductions, we moved on to the food!
We needed to get the Liboke steaming in the oven! We immediately started chopping the vegetables to go with it – onions, tomatoes, garlic, green onions, and a poblano pepper. Once the vegetbales were chopped, Godee showed us how to wrap the fish in the banana leaves. She carefully demonstrated the first one, showing us what went inside, how to make a “bowl” out of the leaf, and seasoning it before closing it up.
After that, we moved on to the other various dishes, Kelly took charge of the plaintains, cutting them into thick ½ inch size pieces, sliced at an angle. Meanwhile the oil heated over the stovetop. When it was warmed, the plantains were fried, getting turning half-way through the process.
The other vegetables were chopped, with Shelly taking the lead with the onions and green onions, while Debi started slicing the sausage for our bean mixture and the finely cutting the smoked turkey for the spinach.
Meanwhile, the liboke went into the oven to steam, the curry rice cooked in the rice cooker, and the process of frying plantains continued. Fruit was cut for dessert, to replicate a traditional Congolese meal, which would have fruit as the finishing touch instead of a sugar-based dessert.
Godee took the lead in preparing the spinach side dish as well as the bean mixture, but our guests jumped in to help stir, monitor, and swirl the ingredients together.
After two hours of cutting, chopping, slicing, cooking, frying, and baking, our food was finalized. Well, almost! It turned out the liboke needed more time to steam and wasn’t ready to be eaten quite yet. However, we turned our appetite to the baked goat meat and ribs that Godee had prepared for us prior to our arrival.
We all piled our plates high to enjoy some of the tastes and tales of the Congo!
When it came to the food, I have to say that my favorite things were the plantains and the sausage/bean mixture. The pork ribs were delicious, but I didn’t favor the goat meat, although at least one of our guests said he really enjoyed them! At the beginning of the evening, Prosper asked us, “Why don’t American’s eat goat!?” And while I don’t have an answer for this, it’s just one of those things!
Throughout out dinner, Godee and her husband, Prosper, shared more about their journey from the Congo to America, some of the cultural differences, and what life is like in the Congo.
Guests went home with a heart filled with connection and a plate filled with food to enjoy for the next day’s lunch or to share with their significant others.
Have you ever tried Congolese food before? If so, what did you love most about it? Have you eaten goat? Do you like it?
To prep for this experience, Godee and I shopped at some local, small markets. A Halal shop owned by a Somalian where we purchased the goat meat, an African store owned by a Congolese woman where we purchased the plantains, and E-Mart, an Asian Market for the catfish and other ingredients.