The Table of My Ancestors: Week 19 (Senegambia – Guinea)

I have to admit that this week was a bit of a challenge. Many of the recipes I came across for Guinean cuisine involved fish, and my daughter doesn’t eat any seafood. Since she is West African, I wanted to make sure I made a dish she’s familiar with and would enjoy.

Enter palm nut soup.

Palm nut soup is a dish made all over West Africa, really, and every country has its variation. (In Liberia, we called it palm butter.) It’s a rich, buttery soup made from palm nuts that has a nutty yet oily (due to the palm oil used) taste. You can put meat or fish in it; I opted for chicken. The key is 1) making sure there’s enough spice (scotch bonnet peppers are used and grounded into a fine pepper dust using a pestle and mortar and b) making sure the palm nuts are soft enough from the boiling that you can easily grind them using the pestle and mortar as well. It’s a labor intensive dish; when my cook in Liberia, Ma Mary, would make it, she would be busy in the kitchen all day long!

Without access to palm nuts, I visited a nearby African market for the next best thing: palm butter paste, right from the can!

All I had to do was make the base of the soup (garlic, onion, tomato paste, pepper, oil, salt and pepper, bouillon cubes) and add the palm nut paste to make the soup. I added some cooked chicken and served it over rice with some fried plantains and pineapple on the side. It was, as we’d say in West Africa, sweet-o!