Wednesday, June 20, 2012


One of the staples of Malawian life is Nsima.

Pronounced See-ma, this local dish literally fuels the nation.

There is a Malawian saying that no meal is complete if it doesn’t include Nsima. It is made of maize (corn) flour and eaten with most, if not all, meals.

One of the reasons for it’s popularity is that it is packed with carbohydrates, making it an easy source of energy. This allows the masses that work in agriculture to have the energy necessary for long days in the field.

Another reason is that it expands in the stomach, keeping you feeling full for longer. In one of the world’s poorest countries, a full feeling belly is a valuable thing. 

Given that maize is one of Malawi's staple crops, Nsima is one of the most accessible foods. Malawians also claim that it is easy to make, although my clumsy cooking skills lead me to disagree with this sentiment.

There are a few different types of this dish, the most common being Nsima Yoyera (white Nsima made from refined white corn flour) and M’gaiwa (made unrefined ground maize flour).

Here is a look at the art of preparing and eating Nsima .


It starts with the maize flour. Here they use the white variety.

First water is warmed and some of the flour is added to the mix.

As it heats up and comes to a boil, more flour is added.

It is stirred and heated until it is of a playdoh like consistency.

It is spooned into lumps and served.


Nsima is eaten with a ‘relish’, which usually consists of a leafy green vegetable called rape or beans. It is sometimes also eaten with a ‘soup’ (made from tomatoes) or meat (chicken, fish or beef), when available. Here it is being eaten with nyemba (beans).

To eat Nsima you pull a piece of the lump with your fingers (after washing your hands of course). 

You press it between your fingers and palm until it takes the form of a ball.

You then dip it in the relish.

And pop it in your mouth. (Smile!)

Some foreigners don’t like the consistency of Nsima or say that it is tasteless. I quite enjoy it if I put salt on it and eat it with eggs, rape and soup. It is warm and comforting and quite satisfying.

The only problem is that it is difficult to work after eating. I always find myself in a bit of a ‘food coma’ making it difficult to concentrate on work or anything other than the satisfaction of feeling full and warm . I much prefer the eating to the cooking!


  1. Lesley! I just bought Succulent Wild Woman, and I can't find you on Facebook because I don't know your last name or possibly because you're not on Facebook. Anyway, I wanted to thank you for the amazing recommendation and potentially enlightening my life. I'll be passing it on shortly. Peace, Naomi (Mushroom Farm)

  2. Naomi! How do I find you on face book? Glad that you got the book, hope that you enjoyed it. Good luck on your journey.