If there’s one place that deserves to be called the Warm Heart Of Africa, it’s Malawi.
Unlike the more westernized countries in Africa, Malawi is somewhat untouched by external culture; which makes for a very unique tourist destination. Wildlife reserves, tea plantations, beautiful scenery, and….. unforgettable food!
Whether it’s a creamy breakfast porridge, a wholesome vegetable stew, or the the catch of the day from Lake Malawi – Malawian cuisine is full of delightful surprises.
In this post, we’re focusing specifically on what’s called the staple food of Malawi: Nsima!
What Is Nsima?
There’s no escaping Nsima in Malawi. It forms the basis of way too many meals!
This is a thickened porridge made from maize, one of the most vital and widely grown crops in Malawi. If you happen to be traveling across the country during the rainy season you’ll, inevitably see fields after fields of maize around you.
The dish is so integral to Malawian culture that locals eat it for breakfast, lunch and supper! In fact, many Malawians prefer nsima to rice and other foods because they feel it keeps them physically strong.
Nsima is the staple carbohydrate dish of the region: a starchy, thick porridge made from cassava, corn, or other starchy flour.
It is usually prepared from one of the two kinds of corn flour in Malawi: Ufa wa m’gaiwa (the whole corn kernel) and Ufa woyera (starchy maize flour).
The local families often grind the floor themselves through a pestle and mortar, or buy mass-produced flour from local shops.
After the porridge has been prepared, it is cooked in a pan and then shaped into hamburger-sized patties.
The pieces are then broken off and rolled into a ball. Finally, a little dimple is pressed into one side of each ball – which is then dipped in the sauce of meat or vegetables.
Nsima is typically served with a variety of different flavors. The patties are served up with a tasty sauce of fish, meat or vegetables (known as “ndiwo.”). They can also be served as a replacement for mashed potatoes with vegetables and beans.
Alternatively, the patties are served as a side dish alongside freshly caught chambo (a fish widely caught in Lake Malawi).
- 5 to 6 cups cornmeal
- Ground maize or corn flour (1 cup per serving)
- Pour cold water into a large pot (2 cups for each cup of corn meal).
- Bring the water to boil over high heat.
- After 4-5 minutes, add in around half the cornmeal to the water (one spoonful at a time). Stir consistently with a wooden spoon.
- Continue to cook (and stir) until the mixture begins to boil. Reduce the heat to a moderate level. Cook a few minutes more.
- As you cook the over medium heat, add the remaining cornmeal and continue to stir. It's crucial that you keep stirring until the nsima is smooth and thick (no leftover liquid or lumps should remain).
- Feel free to keep adding cornmeal until you notice the desired texture. Once that consistency is reached, turn the heat off, cover the pot and let it rest for a few minutes.
Watch: How to Make Nsima
There’s truly a lot to experience on a landlocked, southeastern African destination like Malawi. But the food must always be your first priority!
Each Malawian dish has a flair of its own – but Nsima is just that bit extra special. Don’t miss out on it!