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Spotlight on Culture

People that call this area Home

New Americans

Immigrants from other areas of the world

The Congolese people

Cultural Profile of their country- DR Congo

Traditional Cuisine and Food Practices


The traditional Congolese diet is very healthy. Many people farm their own food and eat freshly picked, unprocessed food. The country grows a wide variety of crops, including corn, rice, cassava (also known as manioc), sweet potatoes, yam, taro, plantain, tomatoes, pumpkin and many varieties of peas and nuts. These foods are eaten throughout the country, but there are also regional dishes that utilize the ingredients in many different ways. The most important crops for export are coffee and palm oil. In addition, some types of wild plants, a diversity of fruits, mushrooms, honey and other foods such as bushmeat and fish are also gathered, hunted, and used in dishes. People often sell these crops at markets, or by the roadside.

Congolese cuisine has influences of French techniques (such as confit and the braising of meat, for example) and Belgian cooking, but it is based in Central and Western African cuisine.

The meals often consist of a starchy ingredient along with vegetables and meat together as a stew. The starch can come separately, as a paste or mash made of cassava or corn flour, called fufu or ugali. To eat it, the fufu is rolled into golf-sized balls and dipped into the spicy stew, often with an indentation made with the thumb to bring up a bit of sauce.

Fermented bread made from cassava, called kwanga, is commercially produced throughout the country. A popular plantain dish, Lituma, is made from mashed plantains formed into balls and baked. Sweet potatoes are prepared in a similar way, and mixed with roasted peanuts in some parts of the country. Rice is often mixed with beans.

Green vegetables such as cassava leaves, tshitekutaku (a plant similar to Spinach) and okra are often also added to their dishes. Mushrooms, especially used in recipes from the Luba people, are often seen as a substitute for meat in times of shortage. Total vegetarianism is uncommon, but in some regions the meals are eaten without meat due to its high price.

Fish is also widely consumed as a source of protein, since they are plentiful along the Congo River, its tributaries, and various lakes. The fish is either baked, boiled or fried for immediate consumption, or smoked and in some cases salted when preserved. Markets often sell ready-to-eat peppered fish baked in banana leaves. However, goat is the most widely consumed meat, and they also use chicken in their dishes. Mwambe is a common way of cooking chicken with peanut sauce. A variety of edible insects, such as grasshoppers and caterpillars, are also eaten; these insects tend to have a nutty flavor. They also eat rabbit meat for special occasions, and pork. The consumption of fish or meat will vary depending on wealth and availability in different regional areas.

Some foods, such as rice, are used across the country. Food choices are usually dependent on regional location and the availability of food. Each region has their own staples as follows:

  • Northern region: Cassava (root and leaves) with meat, fish, vegetables and legumes.

  • Southern region: Corn, meat, vegetables, legumes and sweet potato.

  • Eastern region: Potato, beans (green and dried), cassava, meat and vegetables.

  • Western region: Cassava with fish, meat and vegetables (including legumes).

  • Central region: Cassava, maize, potato, meat or fish.

The sauces used to mix with the main ingredients are usually made with tomatoes, onions, and local aromatic herbs. Vegetable oil, together with salt, hot red chili peppers and sweet green peppers are also used for extra flavor. The spices are less used in the far south of the country.

Nganda restaurants

It is important to also mention Kinshasa's nganda restaurants. These are ethnic restaurants that serve food from specific parts of the country, as well as Western imports such as bread and beer. They are often owned by unmarried women, and occupy a middle ground between bars and restaurants.

Nganda restaurants are often geared not only to specific regions, but also different classes—from migrant menial workers and miners, to professionals and government officials.

Three typical types are Riverside nganda (serves baked fish with cooked plantains: recipes from up river); Kongo nganda (serves fish dishes with a vegetable sauce, together with kwanga. These dishes originate downriver from Kinshasa); and Kasai nganda (serves goat meat with rice and green vegetables; sometimes rabbit meat is also offered for special occasions).

Religious and cultural practices

Religion and culture influence how the dishes are prepared and what ingredients are used. Cultural events usually have meals prepared to celebrate, one of them is National Day (June 30). Food is also prevalent in all social events, including weddings, baptisms, funerals and religious holidays. Wedding celebrations, for example, can last for days. These celebrations often include large meals.

Goat stomach, sliced and boiled with onions and tomatoes, is a celebration food. Chicken with onions, tomatoes and rice

is always served at Christmas. Traditionally, chicken is more cost effective for feeding large groups, as they are often bred by families. Other birds and pork may also be used, depending on availability.

Most families have 1–2 meals per day, and large quantities of food is eaten at each meal. Traditionally, the main meal is consumed around 3:00 pm, and everyone in the household sits together, as meals are usually eaten at the table- but that can vary depending on school and work commitments. In village areas, meals are traditionally eaten from a large communal dish with one’s fingers, using the starchy component to mix with, and soak up, the stew or sauce. In metropolitan areas, people may be more likely to serve food on individual plates. The father of the family is served first.

Water is a common drink with all meals. Many people, who are not Muslim, drink a traditional alcoholic drink made from banana or sorghum, called lotoko or pétrole. This drink has important social value for the Congolese, because they believe that it unites people and fosters friendships.

Muslims make up about 10% of the population. Islamic religious diets include only halal meats and they do not consume pork, pork products, gelatine or alcohol.

Traditionally, women are responsible for shopping for and cooking the food.

Top 15 most popular dishes and food:

Liboke Ya Malangwa



Chikwange (Kwanga)


Ndakala (recipe in French)

Makemba (Plantains)



Mayebo (Mushrooms) with Mbinzo (Caterpillars)

Mayebo with chicken


Tshomba tshakabiola

Poulet a la Moambe

Poso (Poso ya Ngulu)

Stay tuned for more information on more people and their cultures, and more places in future posts. Our area is blessed to be called home by many people of many cultures, and they deserve to be acknowledged.


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