Our vegan take on Congolese Moambe Chicken uses plant-based chicken coated in a rich tomato and peanut butter sauce flavoured with onion, garlic, chilli flakes and ginger. This easy vegan chicken dish works nicely with a side of rice and vegetables.
Country Number 46: Democratic Republic Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo holds a rather special place in my heart. It was in fact the birthplace of my grandma. Her parents were missionaries from England who had come over to DRC do long-term mission work. Sadly, both my grandma’s mother and her twin brother passed away during the birth due to the limited healthcare available at the time. In many ways, it was a miracle that my grandma survived. Cooking a meal from the Democratic Republic of the Congo was a very poignant reminder of my family history and my precious great grandparents.
Before jumping into the history and cuisine of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I thought I’d clarify something that I have always found very confusing. What exactly is the difference between the two Congos? There is the Republic of Congo aka Congo-Brazzaville, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo aka Congo-Kinshasa. Both countries share similar names, languages, cultures, cuisine and natural resources. However, the two countries have a few distinguishing features.
The Republic of the Congo (for which we cooked green rice a few countries back) is a very small country with a population of 5 million. It was formerly colonised by France. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the other hand, is the third largest country in Africa and has a population of 100 million. It was formerly colonised by Belgium. Both gained their independence in 1960.
As one of the largest and least developed countries in Africa, the DRC is sadly the second largest hunger crisis in the world after Yemen. The ongoing conflict in the DRC has caused much displacement of its civilians. Currently, there are over 5 million people who have had to flee from their homes, their fields and their livelihoods.
History of Democratic Republic Congo Cuisine
Due to the limited amount of cultivated land and the unstable economy of the DRC, Congolese cuisine is very basic and relies heavily on staple ingredients. This mostly includes carbohydrates such as cassava, taro, rice and yams. Peanuts and palm oil are the main source of protein and fat in the Congolese diet. For animal protein, chicken and goat are mainly eaten, however are often reserved for special occasions due to the expense. Influences of French and Belgian cooking techniques are still present in the cuisine from the countries colonised days.
Popular Democratic Republic Congo Vegetarian Dishes
- Fufu- Popular throughout the entirety of Africa, fufu is a porridge made of pounded cassava, plantains or yams.
- Fumbwa stew– This Congolese stew is made from a wild spinach called fumbwa that is boiled with tomato, onions and palm oil.
- Dabo kolo– Famous in Ethiopoia, dabo kolo are small pieces of fried bread made of roasted barley, chickpeas and peanuts, which has also gained popularity in the Congo.
- Madesu– This dish consists of beans that are cooked in water before being fried in palm oil and tomato sauce.
- Mikate– Another popular snack, these round fried dough balls are often served dipped in peanut butter and sprinkled with sugar.
- Potage de Riz aux Épinard- Green rice cooked with spinach and okra.
Vegetarian rating of Democratic Republic of Congo Cuisine:
Making Vegan Moambe Chicken (Poulet Moambe)
We thought we’d try our hand at making the national dish of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is Poulet Moambe. Traditionally, this dish is made with chicken simmered in a palm oil and spices. Normally, we wouldn’t consider turning such a meat-centric dish vegetarian. However, we decided it would be an interesting challenge, and also an opportunity to try out a plant-based chicken and see how it fared.
As vegetarians, we’ve got rather mixed feelings about meat alternatives. On one hand, we see it as a great pathway to reducing meat consumption whilst still getting to eat something that tastes hearty and substantial. On the other hand, its hard to determine which meat alternatives are still healthy and which are overly processed and full of crap. For us, we try to eat and cook with whole foods such as vegetables, legumes and nuts as much as possible, and just use meat alternatives every now and again as a treat.
For this recipe, we used an meat alternative called Sunfed chicken. It certainly has the chunky look and texture of chicken. However, we weren’t the biggest fans of it. Perhaps it was the way we prepared it, but it had a slightly weird mouth-feel and taste. If we were to make this recipe again, we’d probably use Quorn pieces instead, which we personally prefer the taste and texture of. Feel free to use whatever meat-alternative you see fit. Also, just to note that you wouldn’t find peanut butter in a traditional Poulet moambe. However, as peanuts are commonly found in the DRC, many recipes online do call for its use. Also, it does add a heck of a lot of flavour to the sauce.
Ingredient notes for Vegan Moambe Chicken (Poulet Moambe)
- Plant-based chicken- As mentioned, we used Sunfed chicken, however you can use whichever meat-substitute you wish.
- Peanut butter– Be sure to use natural, smooth, unsweetened peanut butter (don’t get us started on inferior types of peanut butter).
- Red chilli- You can omit if spice sensitive or sub for 1 tsp of chilli flakes
- Tomato paste– We used tomato paste to form a thick sauce to coat the “chicken”, however if you want to make this dish more stew-like, you can use tinned tomatoes.
How to make Vegan Moambe Chicken (Poulet Moambe)
This dish is super easy to make and come together in one pan and just a few steps.
- In a large pan, heat up 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Break Sunfed chicken into pieces and fry each side for a few minutes, until deep golden brown. Remove from pan and aside.
- Heat another tablespoon of oil in pan. Add onions and sauté for 5 or so minutes, until turning golden. Add in garlic, ginger, green onion and chilli and sauté for another minute.
- Next, add in tomato paste, peanut butter and water to the pot and mix to combine. Add Sunfed chicken back to pan, coating with sauce. Cook for 10 minutes then remove from heat and serve.
Serving suggestions for Vegan Moambe Chicken (Poulet Moambe)
We’d suggest serving this dish with our Congolese green rice and a side of vegetables (green beans or broccoli would work nicely).
Did you make this recipe? We’d love to know! Tell us how it went in the comments below or tag us (@gourmetvegetarians) in your photos on Instagram.
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