In the past, we talked about hibiscus flowers were used to make a popular drink called Bissap. Today, I will share with you a popular recipe, from Congo, made with roselle leaves instead of hibiscus flowers.
Ngai ngai is the Lingala word for roselle . Ngai means sour in Lingala, so ngai ngai can literally translate into “sour sour”. Specie of hibiscus, roselle leaves known for their sourness are mostly grown in tropical or subtropical part of the world, like West and Central Africa.
Roselle is a popular vegetable in many parts of Africa. In the Congolese cuisine, the leaves are mostly used in stews or soups or stir fries, whether it’s vegan, vegetarian or with proteins like meat or fish. In short, possibilities are endless.
Today’s blog post is a family recipe that I got from my mother who got it from my late grandmother. The ngai ngai with eggplant stew is a simple dish cooked in different ways in both Republic of Congo and Democratic Republic of Congo. But I will share with you how it’s made in my family.
Traditionally, my mother uses the African eggplants (or basóló in lingala) which have a bitter taste compared the long purple eggplants. But since, I couldn’t find the African eggplants in Montreal at this particular time of the year, I decided to use purple eggplants instead. I must say the result was quite the same.
Because of the sourness of the leaves, this particular stew goes well with fried or steamed fish. However, if you’re vegan you can simply eat alone without any protein. That’s why I love this dish. It’s basically up to you to use it as a main dish or a side dish. This dish may not look appealing but trust me, it’s delicious and to die for. So don’t hesitate to give it a try.
Prep : 10 min Cook : 15 min Servings : 4-6
- 800 g of frozen roselle or sorrel Leaves
- 1 eggplant
- 1 diced red onion
- ¼ cup of onion purée
- 1 teaspoon of chili flakes
- 1 vegetable stock cube (Optional)
Defrost the frozen leaves overnight in the fridge.
Wash the eggplant then peel off its skin. Cut it into cubes and set aside.
In a pan heat about 3 tablespoons of oil then sauté the diced red onion for 2-3 min until the onion turns soft.
Add eggplant and sauté for 3-4 min before adding the roselle leaves and the onion purée. Season with chili flakes, stock cube, salt and pepper.
Pour in one (1) cup of water and stir. Turn the heat to low and cover for 15 min.
Turn off the heat and serve.
Don’t use flavourful oils like olive oil, it’s better to use neutral oil. I used canola oil. In Congo, most people cook with peanut oil (it’s not a neutral oil) or sunflower oil.
Serve this stew with boiled plantains if you want to make it a 100% vegan meal or accompanied it with fried fish if you need proteins.
If you are lucky enough to find fresh roselle or sorrel leaves, wash them, cut them into small pieces with a knife before adding them in the pan after the eggplants. And instead of 15 min, let it cook for 20-25 min or until the leaves softened.