Cassava leaf stew goes by several different names like saka saka, pondu, palava and mpondu. It is always served over steamed rice and is considered to be the national dish of Sierra Leone. Cassava leaf stew is also extremely popular in other West African countries as well.
This version is made with beef and smoked fish but there are numerous versions with chicken and just fish and completely vegetarian. I loved this recipe as it was well rounded and a delight for the palate. It is also very filling. It has eggplant in it as well. I used my vitamix blender to make this recipe, easy-peasy. In Sierra Leone they would use a mortar and pestle called a mata wodo.
Rice is a staple ingredient in Sierra Leone and they have a saying “if you haven’t eaten rice today, you haven’t eaten”. It just proves how important it is in the cuisine. This dish along with other stews are typically served on a large platter and served communally. After a hand washing, you would sit down and using only your right hand make a ball with the rice and make an indentation with your thumb. This basically turns the rice into a spoon to sop up the delicious cassava leaf stew.
Cassava leaf may be difficult to find, I found it in my local Asian store in the freezer section it should be minced or ground. Here is an amazon link if you would like to try the real thing. You could substitute spinach however it is really nothing like the real thing.
If you would like to learn more about Sierra Leone be sure to check out “Our Journey to Sierra Leone”. There you will also find more authentic Sierra Leone recipes like ginger beer and grilled oysters.
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Cassava Leaf Stew/Sauce a recipe from Sierra Leone
- 1 lb. beef boneless cut into bite sized cubes
- 1 Tablespoon oil
- 2 onions peeled and roughly chopped divided
- 2 stock cubes divided Maggi
- 3 cups of water divided
- 2 medium eggplants peeled and roughly chopped
- 3 Tablespoons dried smoked fish flakes or 3 tbsp crayfish powder
- Scotch bonnet or other chilli to your heat tolerance
- 5 Tablespoon peanut butter smooth
- 3/4 cup palm oil
- 1 lb. pounded cassava leaves
- salt and pepper to taste
- Add the beef, 1 Tablespoon of onion, a quarter of the maggi stock cube, oil, 1/3 cup of water and a pinch of salt to a pot, mix well, bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer for about 25 mins until the beef is cooked through.
- Reserve both the beef and the cooking liquid.
- While the beef is cooking add the eggplant, the remaining onion, fish flakes, chili and 2/3 cups of water into a high-powered blender and blend into a puree.
- Transfer the puree into a pot, add the remaining maggi stock cubes and water, peanut butter, and palm oil.
- Mix well and over high heat bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for 30 mins stirring occasionally.
- Then stir in the cassava leaves, and beef liquid, bring the boil and simmer for about 30 mins.
- 10 mins before the cassava leaves are done add in the beef, season well with any needed salt and pepper and cook till done.
- Serve over steaming rice.