First encounters with this black stew known to most people as “Mbongo Tchobi” can be disconcerting for Westerners – I must admit I was taken aback with it’s gray black color the first time, I was actually offered a plate of this dish. But now, I am a big fan and most people who actually try them find them quite appetizing.
Mbongo Tchobi, also known, as bongo is an earthy spicy black tomato based sauce with smooth, thick, and velvety texture. It’s distinctive taste and color is achieved by burning “hiomi” (Mbongo stick) over hot open flame. Then it is blended and incorporated into the tomato stew with other spices.
The most basic ingredients consists of: Hiomi, back of mbongo tree (the star ingredient in the soup), njansa, a nutty spice (used in some West African countries), alligator pepper also known as: grains of paradise, African nutmeg or, ehuru, (a spice widely grown in West Africa and some Caribbean countries).
I intensify the flavor of the stew by lightly frying the njansa; added garlic, basil and parsley.
In contrast to the past, you can purchase the ground spices in little sachets with the work already done for you. All you need to do is; add to the tomato stew with any firm white fish (Catfish is the fish most often used).
Unfortunately, if you live abroad this spice blend is only available in some African stores and online- sold as mbongo spice in Western Countries.
This spicy stew is a popular dish that is frequently cooked in the homes and restaurants in Cameroon, specifically in the littoral province among the Bassa Tribe.
Serve it with boiled sweet plantains or any starchy side.
Watch How To Make It
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Mbongo Tchobi (Spicy Black Sauce)
- 3 pounds of white fish cut up in steaks
- Njansa – 10
- ½ large onion
- 4 large tomatoes
- ¼ cup parsley
- ½ cup basil
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 green onions
- ½ - 1 cup vegetable oil
- 4-6 tablespoons mbongo spice
- 1 tablespoon bouillon powder or 2 Maggi cubes
- Salt to taste
- If using catfish ,pour hot water over the fish in the sink, let it sit for a minute, then rinse and clean the fish (this removes all the sliminess of the fish). Skip this if you using any other white fish. Set aside
- Lightly fry njansa for about 5 minutes. Set aside.
- Chop the tomatoes, onions, green onions and place in a food processor or blender- add njansa, garlic, basil, parsley with a little bit of water if using a blender to facilitate blending. Blend until puree.
- Heat up a saucepan with oil, then add the tomatoes mixture, with very little water, bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
- Add mbongo spice, fish, Maggi and salt to the mixture; simmer for another 10 minutes or more until fish is cooked through. Add water as necessary to prevent burns.
- Adjust for seasonings with salt or Maggi.
- Serve warm with boil plantains.