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Exotic Africa: Chambo in banana leaves

Over the last few weeks, we have been exploring different types of African food. We have featured jollof rice and jerk chicken, which are predominantky eaten in the western part of Africa, as well as in the Carribean. If you know history that much, you will understand this connection.

By with Edith

Some of the slaves that were taken from Africa to the United States were resettled in Carribean countries which include Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Bahamas, St Lucia and Haiti, among others. Some of the slaves returned to Africa and resettled in Sierra Leon, a West African country.

So, you will find that is one of the reasons why some of the food and cultures of the Carribean and West African countries may look similar.

This week, I head closer home in southern Africa to a very beautiful country tucked away neatly between Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania… lovely Malawi. Lake Malawi is the country’s prized possession from God. Most of the countrys’ economy revolves around the lake and agriculture. So, that’s a little bit of history about Malawi, the Carribeans and West Africa. Now let’s talk about today’s recipe.

Malawians eat a lot of fish. Most of the fish is caught fresh from the lake and forms a very integral part of the diet. Fish is served either with coconut rice or nsima (sadza as it is known in Zimbabwe). What’s fascinating and different about eating Malawian fish is the numerous ways that they prepare the fish. This week, I feature a unique way that I found amazing and intriguing.

Also in abundance in Malawi are bananas, because of its beautiful climate that allows for the growing of different fruits. So, today we are going to make fish or chambo as they call it, with banana leaves.

Chambo in banana leaves


l2 whole breams, about 600g each

l2 tsp salt

l2 tsp ground black pepper

l2 stalks lemongrass

l6 leaves fresh coriander

l10g fresh ginger slices

l4 leaves fresh mint

l4 slices lemon

l2 banana leaves, washed and dried

l1 tablespoon olive oil


This is cooked on a braai. So, before preparing the fish, light a fire and add charcoals. When the charcoals are red, lightly oil the grill and place it over the fire. Grill the fish over medium to high heat. Grill for 10 minutes and turn the fish over and grill for another 10 minutes.

Remove the fish from the grill and let it rest for about five minutes. cut open the banana leaf and serve with sadza (nsima) and beans.

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