June 4, 2017
June is a month dedicated to encouraging individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds to stand and be proud of their identities throughout the month and beyond. One of the ways these identities are celebrated is through Immigrant Heritage Month, which promotes a greater sense of acceptance and diversity by creating an opportunity for people in the United States to explore their own immigrant heritage, while learning more about the shared experiences of those who are new arrivals and the contributions they and others like them have made.
I always like to say that diversity adds spice to life; I think this is especially true of food and people from different places, and particularly so when the two come together to allow the “other” to become less foreign and more familiar. Thanks to globalization, more efficient and affordable forms of transportation, and factors such as employment, unstable or unsafe political environments, and greater potential for acceptance, countries all over the world are now finding themselves in the unique position of being home to a wide variety of individuals from an equally wide variety of backgrounds, languages, and cuisines; among these new arrivals are refugees and immigrants from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a country as well known for its lush scenery and vibrant culture as it is for its rich mineral wealth.
So why the DRC? I first learned about the country while writing my thesis on the ongoing conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Bosnia-Herzegovina and their aftermath while in grad school (I studied Social and Public Policy). Despite representing a smaller percentage of the total number of immigrants to the US than individuals from regions such as Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East, and its reputation for politically and strategically-motivated violence, the Democratic Republic of Congo is also a country with an incredible amount of cultural, geographical, and culinary diversity, boasting over 250 spoken languages and dialects, including French (making it the second largest French-speaking country in the world), and the second largest rainforest in the world, after the Amazon, at 1.5 million square miles.
Much of the food found in the Democratic Republic of Congo features chicken, fish, and a wide variety of spices, nuts, and starchy, comforting additions such as rice or bananas; one of these dishes, Muamba Nsusu, or Congolese Chicken and Peanut Soup, is a perfect marriage of two comfort foods, chicken soup and peanut butter… and it looks (and tastes) like liquid gold. This week’s post is a little light on photos, but don’t worry – it’s incredibly easy to make (so easy that it practically makes itself!). I adapted a recipe I borrowed from Just a Pinch‘s blog; because this soup’s consistency is somewhere between a soup and a stew, I cubed the chicken I added to the soup, rather than boiling and shredding it. Here’s how to make it:
- 2 lbs. chicken, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 3 tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
- 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
- 1/4-1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (to taste)
- 1 large carrot, cut into 1 inch-thick slices
- 1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, with juice
- 1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
- 1 cup smooth peanut butter
- 1 (32 oz.) container chicken broth
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. salt (to taste)
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Dry roasted, salted peanuts for garnish (optional)
- Green onions or chives for garnish (optional)
- Sauteé onion in vegetable oil until just translucent.
- While onions are sauteéing, add peanut butter and chicken broth to a medium-large sized pot and stir, on low heat, until peanut butter and broth form a smooth consistency.
- Once onions have finished sauteéing, add onions, chicken, and all other ingredients to pot and cook on medium-high heat.
- Let cook, stirring intermittently, until soup begins to boil.
- Lower heat to medium-low and let simmer until soup has thickened.
- Add garnish, serve with rice (if desired), and enjoy!
OPTIONAL – Rice (to be added as a side dish):
- 3 cups rice
- 1 (32 oz.) container chicken broth or 4 cups water
- 1/2 tsp. salt (if using water, add 1 tsp. salt)
- Add all ingredients to medium-sized pot.
- Cover and cook on medium-low until rice has absorbed liquid.
- Remove from heat and uncover.
- Fluff with a fork and set aside until ready to serve with soup.
Fun fact: The Democratic Republic of Congo features five national parks within the Congolese rainforest that are designated as UN World Heritage Sites. DRC is also home to globally-recognized, award-winning physician, Denis Mukwege, who is responsible for founding the world-renowned Panzi Hospital, which acts to combat wartime acts of gender-based violence and promote greater empowerment for the women of the Democratic Republic of Congo.