World Cooking – Republic of the Congo

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Republic of the Congo
Progress: 95/193

Researching recipes for some nations can be pretty difficult because of similarities and my, for some reason, desire to find something unique where possible. When you have countries whose names have a significant overlap, things get especially hard. With Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRoC) – you have both issues seeing as all articles you end up finding refer to a joint Congolese cuisine. You have similar issues with North and South Korea – but I found a way around it.

With today’s post, I could have easily done a repeat of making Moambé Chicken as this is a national dish shared by both Congo nations. However, I wanted to go with something different as, in the end, they have had quite different histories. For example, during the colonial era, both nations were invaded and ruled by different European countries. So where the DRoC gained independence from Belgium, the Republic of the Congo fought against France to regain theirs. They also had a distinct first government after independence where the DRoC becoming an American-backed dictatorship whereas the Republic of the Congo aligned themselves with the Communist bloc.

Through all this, when you look at their different histories, the food culture is one that is shared. So, for today’s post I will be doing a recipe that I found online that has rarely been linked to just the Republic of the Congo.

Main: Babute

By cooking babute for the Republic of the Congo, I am following a long line of cook around the world blogs who have made this for this particular nation. The name and the style harken back to bobotie – which I made for South Africa. Both of them are beef dishes flavoured with curry powder and topped with a type of custard and bay leaves.

There is a lot of similarity there but it would appear there is a chance that babute and bobotie co-evolved. If the very stub-like Wikipedia page for ‘babute’ is to be believed, the name is a place in the Congo, whereas ‘bobotie’ comes Indonesian words. There is also a difference in preparation.

For babute (recipe from a web archive snapshot taken from Aussie Tastes) you mix half of the custard mix into the meat until fully incorporated – unlike bobotie where it is just poured over it. In this way, babute is a type of meatloaf whereas bobotie is specifically left as mince meat with ingredients mixed in. When comparing the two though, I think I prefer the meat in the babute and the custard of the bobotie. Maybe I’ll make a fusion dish one day and have the best of both worlds.

So that’s me now halfway through Africa, Asia and Oceania – with my halfway country for Europe already locked in for a New Years Day treat. I am not sure if I am going to get another food country in between now (mid-December) and New Years Day because of Christmas in between, but I guess I’ll just have to see where the chips land. Maybe I’ll find some cool street food!

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