Cassava is one the most important crops consumed in Sub-Saharan African countries, with the roots being more widely consumed. However, as well as the roots, cassava leaves are also widely consumed as a vegetable in the region, particularly in parts of Congo, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Zambia and Liberia. The leaves, which are affordable and widely available, are made into soup or stew known by different names depending on which part of the region you are – pondu, mpondu, saka saka, sombe, nkwem, cassava leaves plasas, feuille de manioc etc.
In this post, I will share a recipe for the Congolese cassava leaf soup, which is locally known as pondu. Pondu is highly valued and a staple food in Congo; it is eaten as a regular meal but also served on special occasions. To make this dish, cassava leaves are cooked with other green vegetables, palm oil, garlic and onions to make a highly nutritious and tasty soup which is eaten with rice or fufu. Pondu, sometimes served with pili pili on the side, can also be eaten with yam, plantain and eba, potatoes and other starchy foods.
Health Benefits of Cassava Leaves
Cassava leaves are a significant source of nutrients, particularly in regions where the meals are carbohydrate-heavy. They have a decent protein content. They are rich in vitamin C, B and minerals like calcium and magnesium with lower levels of iron, zinc and manganese.
Is Cassava Leaf Poisonous?
This is one of the most common questions regarding cassava leaves on google. Cassava leaves contain a toxic substance called cyanogenic glucoside. If the leaves are eaten raw or without being processed correctly, then it could cause cyanide poisoning.
To make cassava leaves edible, they are processed by mashing or pounding, steeping, followed by boiling. In some areas, the leaves are dried in the sun before pounding. The pounding is what gives pondu the paste-like consistency.
How To Make Cassava Leaf Soup
Here are the ingredients you need to make pondu...
- Cassava Leaves
- Green Pepper
- Spring onions
- Bouillon cubes
- Palm oil
- Scotch bonnet pepper
A few notes about the ingredients...
- Cassava Leaves: If you have access to fresh cassava leaves and the time and know-how to process, this is best. Otherwise, buy already processed leaves. I used processed frozen cassava leaves for this pondu recipe. For people living in the diaspora, you will find this in the freezers of African and Asian shops.
- Meat & Fish: You can make pondu with your preferred meat or fish. Tinned sardines or mackerel is commonly used, but smoked fish, beef, and other meats work well with the recipe. If you like, you can exclude the meat or fish to make it suitable for vegetarians.
How To Make It...
Leave the frozen pondu to thaw, then wash in a colander under the tap. Squeeze out excess liquid and keep it to one side.
Cut the eggplant into cubes.
Wash the leek, spring onions and peppers. Next, peel the onions and garlic.
Cut the leek, green pepper, onions, and garlic and blend coarsely in a food processor.
Add the blended mixture into a pot, then pour in the pondu. Add stock cubes and cook for 30 mins.
Add a cup of water to the pan, then add the palm oil, cubed eggplant and scotch bonnet pepper. Cook for 1 hr.
Taste for salt, then add the sardines and cook for another 10 mins.
Remove from heat and serve.
Some African vegetable soups & stews to try...
Congolese Cassava Leaves Soup Recipe - Pondu
- Leave the frozen pondu to thaw, then wash in a colander under the tap. Squeeze out excess liquid and keep it to one side.
- Cut the eggplant into cubes.
- Wash the leek, spring onions and peppers. Next, peel the onions and garlic.
- Cut the leek, green pepper, onions, and garlic and blend coarsely in a food processor.
- Add into a pot. Then pour in the pondu. Add stock cubes and cook for 30 mins.
- Add a cup of water to the pan, then add the palm oil, cubed eggplant and scotch bonnet pepper. Cook for 1 hr.
- Taste for salt, then add the sardines and cook for another 10 mins,
- Remove from heat and serve.