zambian spicy tilapia stew

Zambian food!

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It seems like all we do on stream these days are Cookbook Club recipes (we’re doing I Am a Filipino: And This Is How We Cook tomorrow!) and fishcoin redemptions – where users who have earned enough of the loyalty points that they automatically get for watching (“fishcoins”) can choose either one of the cookbooks I own or a country, and I’ll pick some recipes from that cookbook or country to make on stream.

Today, we cooked a country – Zambia!

Mealie bread - zambian cornbread with roasted poblanos, topped with butter

These are always tons of fun for me, because they force me out of my Asian-American comfort zone, and push me to learn about the food of countries I may have never cooked from on my own.

For Zambia, we decided to make two things – mealie bread (like a corn bread) with blackened chiles, and the spicy tilapia stew from The Soul of a New Cuisine by Marcus Samuelsson.

Spicy tilapia stew

We made an African fish soup once before – a Zimbabwean tilapia stew – almost exactly a year ago. That recipe had much more of an emphasis on tomatoes and bell peppers. Today’s recipe was definitely lighter, and a bit more bland. I think the Zimbabwean fish soup was much more traditional, whereas it looks like this recipe is more Marcus Samuelsson’s interpretation of Zambian stew. Not bad, but not quite what I was looking for.

That mealie bread, however – delicious, moist, flavorful, did I mention delicious? We’re both completely obsessed with it. It’s cornbread – but better! I love cornbread with whole corn kernels, and the roasted poblano peppers (I diced and sauteed them) added a kick of flavor with barely any spice. 10/10, would definitely make again.

Mealie bread - zambian cornbread with roasted poblanos, topped with butter

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Spicy Tilapia Stew

from The Soul of a New Cuisine by Marcus Samuelsson

  • one 2 lb tilapia
  • 2 tbsp peanut oil
  • 2 medium red onions, sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, cut in half
  • 3 bird’s eye chiles, seeds and ribs removed, thinly sliced
  • 3 jalapeno chiles, seeds and ribs removed, thinly sliced
  • 2 inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp cracked black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 cups napa cabbage, shredded
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 tbsp chipped parsley
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  1. Fillet the tilapia, discarding the head and reserving the backbone. Cut the fillets into 2″ pieces. Cut the backbone into 4 pieces.
  2. Heat the oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over low heat. When it shimmers, add the onions, garlic, chiles, ginger, cumin, coriander, mustard seeds, peppercorns, salt, and rice and saute for 2 minutes. Add 3 cups of the water and the fish bones, bring to a simmer, and simmer, uncovered, until the bones rise to the surface, about 10 minutes. Remove the bones and discard.
  3. Add the remaining 1 cup water, the tomatoes, and cabbage, and simmer until the cabbage is wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the fish, remove from the heat, cover, and let sit, stirring ocassionally, for 6 to 7 minutes, until the fish is just cooked through.
  4. Stir in the lime juice, parsley, and cilantro and serve.