Fumbwa Recipe (Congolese Wild Spinach Stew)

Fumbwa (Congolese Dish)
Fumbwa (Congolese Dish). Image copyright metscuisines.com
  • 65 mins
  • Prep: 25 mins,
  • Cook: 40 mins
  • Yield: serves 4
Ratings (9)

 When I approached one of my Congolese contacts, she told me about Fumbwa leaf stew, which is a widely recognized Congolese dish. But what exactly is Fumbwa? It is known as wild ​spinach, however, its botanical name is Gnetum Aricanum. It grows mainly in Central Africa, although it is also eaten in parts of West Africa such as Nigeria. It is known as Fumbwa or M'fumbwa in the Democratic Republic of Congo and ​Cameroon, and called Koko in Angola, ​Gabon and Congo. In ​Cameroon it is also known as Eru and in ​Nigeria it is called ​Afang. The leaves have a thick and waxy appearance and can be sold either fresh or dried.

Congolese cooking techniques are quite unique in the sense that green leafy vegetables are boiled down with onions and tomatoes, prior to adding palm oil, whereas, in other regions, the onions and tomatoes are usually sauteed first. Palm oil is therefore used more as a flavor enhancer and natural food coloring rather than just as a cooking oil for sauteing or frying.

Now your next question may be how to make this dish if Fumbwa leaves are not available. After searching online, you may see suggestions ​collard greens and kale instead, however, a close study of Fumbwa recipes will reveal that the resulting dish is actually quite smooth and creamy. Therefore I would recommend chopped baby spinach, cocoyam (taro) leaves or finely chopped or pounded pumpkin leaves (although these can also be slightly rough).

What You'll Need

  • 11 oz (300 grams) baby spinach 
  • 1/2 a cup of water
  • 3 spring onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 ripe tomatoes
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 1 cup of smoked catfish, soaked and rinsed then chopped
  • 3 tablespoons red palm oil
  • 1 cup of ground peanuts or 4 heaping tablespoons of peanut butter

How to Make It

1. Finely chop the greens and place them into a pot to simmer with the water.

2. Once they have reduced in volume by about half, add the spring onions, garlic, and tomatoes and continue to simmer. Crumble the chicken stock cube into the pot and mix well.

3. Make sure all bones have been removed from the smoked fish, then add them to the pot. You may wish to remove the skin from the fish as well. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of palm oil into the pot. This adds a wonderful color, especially when mixed with the peanut butter. 

5. Add the peanut butter and allow to melt into the pot with the gentle heat. Stir into the dish and allow to simmer for 10 minutes until ready to serve.

Recipe Notes

  • This dish is traditionally served with fou fou (fufu) or boiled plantains.
  • Take care with the addition of salt or stock especially if the smoked fish is salty.
  • Check out a video to see how Fumbwa is prepared.