“Green Bananas?” by Flikr user Nicolas Prieur licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
Many of the meals we serve on the mountain have been developed to suit Western palates (if trekkers are feeling the effects of altitude, simple food is often best). But the region has a rich cultural history, distinct from other areas of Tanzania, and its own flavorful cuisine.
For years, the Chagga have called the mountain home, and one of their staple crops has always been bananas. In this hearty stew, they play a starring role; give it a try in your own kitchen—it will be like a taste of the mountain’s history at home!
Note: for this recipe, you’ll be using very-green bananas (do not substitute plantains), showing no signs of ripeness. Peel them with a sharp paring knife on all sides, removing all traces of green peel. You may want to wear gloves during peeling, as the starchy liquid inside is often hard to wash off hands.
1 pound peeled green bananas (~1 ½ pounds unpeeled)
1 ½ pounds chicken thighs* (bone-in, skin-on)
2-3 cups chicken stock*
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
2-3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. cumin
½ tsp. turmeric
¼ tsp. cinnamon
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1/3 c. coconut cream
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro
*For a vegan alternative, substitute chicken thighs with red kidney beans and chicken stock with vegetable stock
1.) In a large, high-sided skillet, heat up oil.
2.) Brown meat in oil briefly, about 2-3 minutes per side, and remove from pan.
3.) Add onions to pan and cook until soft. Add garlic and cook 3-4 minutes.
4.) Add tomato paste, cilantro, and spices and cook 3-4 minutes.
5.) Add tomatoes and cook until liquid thickens slightly.
6.) Return chicken to pan, along with about 2/3 of the stock. Add bananas, making sure to submerge them as much as possible in the liquid.
7.) Bring everything to a boil, then cook over medium heat, covered, for about 30 minutes, until chicken and bananas are cooked through (test the bananas with a fork; it should slide in easily, but they should not be so soft that they fall apart). If the bananas absorb the liquid before cooking through fully, add remaining stock and return ingredients to a simmer.
8.) Serve up your banana stew with plenty of the pan sauce (and maybe a side of ugali!), and enjoy the flavors of Tanzania!