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Inquiries in the heart of darkness: Hector Maille inspecting a house in the center of Kinshasa.

Coeurs de Poulet à la Moambe

Chicken Hearts with Palm Fruit Sauce

Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola claim Poulet à la Moambe as their national dish – so this can be considered a major classic of the black African cuisine. Occasionally one reads that the name of the dish is describing the number of ingredients it contains: Mwambe means «eight» in Lingala, the most important language of the Congo delta. However, it is much more likely that Moambe refers to the main flavoring ingredient of the dish: Mwamba, «palm butter», a kind of cream that is made from the flesh of the palm oil fruit.

In the Congo, Hektor Maille did not just try some over-ripe passion fruit, in the so-called Bloc of Kinshasa, a street full of restaurants, he also tried a dish à la Moambe – without, however, finding out what meat he had on his fork.

In the Western world, chicken is one of the cheapest meat one can find – it's so cheap that many limit themselves to only consume just the skinny, innocent white breast of the animal. The result is that the poultry industry, often subsidized in Europe, produces a huge amount of chicken parts, which no one in the West wants to have, especially the whole viscera. This «offal» is often frozen and sold to Africa – to such a low price that the local chicken farmers can't sell their goods anymore. A whole chicken is a feast that most people in the Congo can seldom only afford. We have the Chicken à la Moambe therefore reinterpreted as an entrails-dish: «Coeur de Poulet à la Moambe». Serve with a simply cooked cassava tuber.

Ingredients (for 2 persons)

300 g chicken hearts, frozen (or to replace: fresh ones)

Some salt and pepper

2 teaspoons palm oil (if available the reddish one)

onion, finely chopped

1 onion, in stripes

4 pods garlic, finely chopped

1 hot chili, deseeded and finely chopped

2 to 4 tablespoons Moambe from the can (more or less according to concentration)

1 or 2 tomatoes, finely chopped

1 teaspoon World N°1 (optional - but highly recommended)

4 tabelspoons parsley, finely chopped

1 lime


  1. Allow chicken hearts to gently unfroze in the fridge (takes about 5 hours). If necessary, pull remaining fat from the hearts and pat dry with kitchen paper. Slightly salt and pepper.
  2. Heat palm oil in a pan and fry the hearts for about 10 minutes until they are brown on all sides.
  3. Add onion, garlic and chili and cook about 5 minutes.
  4. Dissolve Moambe in 2 to 3 dl of warm water and add along with the tomatoes. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes.
    How much Moambe you need depends on the concentration of the product: Some have the consistency of a thick soup, others are a more solid paste, a kind of butter. At the beginning of the cooking time the Moambe emanates a reddish foam - some cooks recommend to skim it off. In addition to that in the first half of the cooking time, depending on the Moambe, small pools of oil appear on the surface of the sauce, which you can skim off as well - by the end of the cooking time, the fat is bound in in the sauce.
  5. Season with salt, stir in parsley and serve with a slice of lime if you like.

We give here a kind of basic recipe only that can be varied in many ways by adding all kinds of vegetables. Some recipes add some okra-slices to the «Poulet à la Moambe», we have cooked the chicken hearts with a few fresh peanuts, and peas or carrot-pieces.

At the end of cooking the chicken hearts still have a pleasant bite.
HOIO's menu-test for Episode 15 of «Mission Kaki», November 20, 2010 in Basel.

More about the travel adventure of Secret Agent Hektor Maille:

Even when there is no TV chef smiling at them, dried shrimps and deep-frozen chicken hearts are the ingredients of a menu that one can dream of, most certainly when one is sitting around as a secret agent in the Congo, not knowing what one should say about it:

First Publication: 30-11-2010

Modifications: 1-12-2010, 20-6-2011, 15-11-2011, 19-12-2011