African peanut stew, a celebratory dish made with beef, spices, and rich peanut butter. The classic side dish for this meal — and indeed, nearly any meal throughout much of eastern Africa — is sukuma wiki, braised greens with a very apt meaning to their name! Do you know what sukuma wiki means?
A meal in Kenya, with ugali, chapati, a meat stew, and sukuma wiki."Sukuma wiki" is a Swahili phrase meaning, depending on how you translate it, "week-pusher," "push the week," or "stretch the week." When I was in Kenya two years ago, I saw kale and collard greens growing in the dusty soil of nearly every home. Green frilly leaves dotted any patch of land that had enough water nearby to irrigate. Hearty greens are a staple of even the most frugal diet in the rural communities of Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania, and other African nations. They are readily available, found in the most basic garden, and so they are used to "stretch the week," when other supplies have run out or meat is scarce. Sukuma wiki can be found in many forms. Sometimes it is highly spiced, in the Indian-influenced cuisine of East Africa. Sometimes it is a very plain and basic dish of greens, with nothing but oil and a little onion to round it out. The version I ate most often in Kenya had onion, tomato, and a smattering of spices. This may be plain family fare in Africa, even a subsistence food. It's what I like to think of as an "invisible food" both there and here, too plain to even mention. But for those of us who love greens and eat them regularly, this kind of basic, quotidian dish of simple greens is one of the building blocks of healthy weeknight meals. Make it any way you like — enjoy the taste and chew of robust greens. Here's how I make mine.Related: Kenya Eating: Fish, Ugali, and Sukuma Wiki (Images: Faith Durand)
A meal in Kenya, with ugali, chapati, a meat stew, and sukuma wiki.