Around the world, the cassava plant is prized for its tubers. But across Central Africa, the plant’s leaves are an essential source of protein, calcium, and vitamins A and C. This is especially true in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where a dish of the boiled greens—known as saka-saka or pondu—is a staple that makes appearances at regular meals and special occasions.
To prepare pondu, one must first clean the leaves and crush them into a paste either using a mortar and pestle or machine (the latter usually requires a trip to the market, where a vendor will crush the leaves for a fee). After boiling the resulting paste until soft, cooks add in garlic, chile, spring onions, eggplant, palm oil, and peanut butter. The result is a hearty, lightly spiced dish that’s as comforting as it is nutritious. For special occasions, pondu might include smoked fish, sardines, or small minnow-esque creatures known as ndakala.