I am the kind of person who is exactingly discriminating with food because I happen to know how to cook. I’m not uppity about it (I have my favorite fast food dishes) but I like my food, to quote the inimitable Eddie Izzard, like I like my men: straightforward, generous and surprising.
Poisson salé is a staple dish in Congo, sort of like mac’n’cheese or greens in the United States or khoreshteh bademjoon in Iranian households: every family has a recipe and almost everyone is an unconditional fan. It’s basically salty fish rehydrated in a tomato-onion-eggplant sauce that is fragrant and delicious. It’s eaten with chikwang [she-kwang] another staple which is the Congolese aquired-taste equivalent of fragrant items like durian, münster cheese or natto. Chikwang is cassava root flour that is mixed into a paste with a little water, shaped into short thick tubes that are wrapped and bound with twine in a banana leaf and steamed for several hours. The finished product is a pungent-acid smelling pasticky sticky tube that when pulled apart has a consistency reminiscent of silicone caulk and no discernable taste.
I could live without the chikwang but salty fish is great. I should have just said that and left it alone. Its’ no use to anyone knowing this because you can’t really eat this dish outside of Congo.