Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Saka-Saka courtesy of author Balthazar Rodrigue Nzomono-Balenda

Saka-Saka (Cassava Leaves)

Saka-Saka (Saca-Saca, Sakasaka, and also known as Mpondou, Mpondu, or Pondu) is the Congolese word for cassava leaves, and the name of a dish made from them. Could “saka” be a Congolese pronunciation of “cassava”, doubled for an emphasis on quantity to name a dish wherein cassava leaves are the main ingredient?

Central African people seem to be unique in their consumption of cassava leaves, which are cooked as greens. Elsewhere in the world, the cassava (or manioc, yuca, or yucca) plant is cultivated only for its tubers.

Cassava leaves are found only in the tropics. If you can pick your own fresh cassava leaves, select the smaller, newer leaves; the larger, older ones are tough. If cassava leaves are not available, substitute collards, kale, turnip greens, or similar. As a writer, I always do my best to take my health seriously by eating traditional food. When I have this dish, I feel like I have a desire for more and more. I am a big eater, believe me.


Lots of cassava greens stems removed, cleaned, and cut or torn into pieces
A few spoonfuls of palm oil, Moambé Sauce, or any oil
One onion, chopped
One clove garlic, minced
Sweet green pepper and/or sweet red pepper, chopped (optional)
Eggplant (peeled, cubed, rinsed, and salted) or okra, chopped (optional)
Salt, or baking soda, to taste
One piece of dried, salted, or smoked fish; or one can of pilchards; or one can of sardines

Throughly crush, mash, or grind the greens in a mortar and pestle or with whatever you can improvise. (roll them with a rolling pin, crush them in a heavy bowl with the bottom of a sturdy bottle, etc.)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add greens and cook for thirty minutes or more (much more if using cassava leaves).

Add all the remaining ingredients to the greens and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer. Do not stir. Simmer until the water is mostly gone and the greens are cooked to a pulp.

Serve aside with a fried chicken, meat, very hot chili. With rice, fufu or batton de manioc ( cassava tubes)

Balthazar Rodrigue Nzomono-Balenda is not only an author and a poet, but also a student, multimedia designer and translator. His previous books include The Depth of My Soul and The Struggle for Power and the Fight for Survival. Balthazar became interested in poetry by accident in 2003 when he wasn’t satisfied with the way things were going in his early studies and in the Danish society. His latest book is Freedom of Press: The Sitting Duck. You can visit Balthazar on the web at http://www.redroom.com/author/balthazar-rodrigue-nzomono-balenda.

Balthazar uses poetry as a tool in his book, Freedom of press the sitting duck to express himself about circumstances journalists can face, when they do their reporting in their countries or overseas. He was inspired by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour’s message on Youtube about journalists getting, kidnapped, tortured or even killed for their works. He learned that most of the time, journalists are silenced by killers who are hired by those who cannot stand the idea of an independent press. In more than 85% of cases, no one was ever arrested or convicted for a crime. Balthazar agrees with Christiane Amanpour about CPJ’s advocacy making a difference because he believes that in a healthy society, freedom of press is part of reporter’s rights to express themselves freely. Even if Balthazar is not a journalists nor he’s interested in journalism, but his objectives with this book, Freedom of press the sitting duck is also to relate situations journalists face, while doing their work and others who may have different occupations, but dealing with similar situations: Human Rights activists, Greenpeace activists, authors, freedom fighters, bloggers, aid workers, NGOs etc. Balthazar’s approach is that journalists are also people who have a right to their profession and the message, which he has to his readers, is that in our Western societies, we must not take freedom of press for granted and he believes that CPJ must keep fighting for justice against murders who have walked away from their wordings with impunity. Peace without justice is like setting yourself unrealistic goals.