Soumbala, also called nete or nere, is a condiment used widely across West Africa. It is rich in proteins and a variety of dietary minerals, and somewhat comparable to the miso paste that Asia regularly uses in their cooking. Soumbala a fermented paste made from the seed of the African locust bean tree with a pungent smell with a taste reminding one of a very mild fish sauce. Soumbala comes in balls or patties and adding salt ensures its quality and facilitates a longer storage life. It can be found in West African markets or sourced online. Fish sauce can be substituted.
Moringa fruit pods are also featured in this dish and can be substituted with string beans. It is cherieshed for its ability to add zest and nutrients to your dish. Virtually every part of the moringa tree (Moringa oleifera) — fruit pods that taste like string beans, leaves redolent of spinach, seeds reminiscent of peanuts, roots that taste like horseradish — is edible and packed with nutrients.
The moringa tree is drought-resistant and can grow 15 feet in a single year in the right environment. It grows especially well in hot, dry subtropical areas and can be utilized to reduce malnutrition in local populations. If you haven’t experimented with soumbala and moringa it might be a good time to start, especially with some grass-fed goat or lamb from Shepherd’s Song.
This recipe is by chef Benedicto Marinas. Benedicto is a chef from the Philippines and worked professionally in Manila, Atlanta, New Orleans, France, Australia, West Africa and currently in New York. He will go to great lengths to find the perfect meal, stopping along the way to help those who struggle with food insecurity and malnutrition. He has just completed a book on utilizing moringa to improve diets in Mali, West Africa.
- Peel the garlic and onion. Do not cut the tomatoes.
- Using a mortar and pestle pound the black pepper into the tiniest form. Option use pepper as whole.
- Cut moringa fruits into 2-inch pieces.
- In a cooking pot put the onion, garlic, tomatoes, and goat meat. Add water. Bring to a boil. Simmer until tomatoes are tender enough to crush.
- Transfer the tomatoes to a separate bowl. Crush the tomatoes until they turn into sauce. Return the tomatoes to the pot.
- Add soumbala balls to the pot. Let the pot’s contents percolate on a very low flame until the goat meat is tender.
- Throw in the moringa fruits and the eggplants. Season with salt and pepper.
- Simmer, covered, until the eggplants are tender. Double check the seasoning, then serve immediately.