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from: Western Africa | cooking method: boiling-simmering


Plasas is a "sauce" always made with some sort of greens, meat and dried fish, thickened with egusi or peanut butter, and served with a starchy side-dish. An astounding variety of greens (i.e., leaf vegetables that must be cooked) can be used in Plasas and similar soups and stews. Plasas is most often found in The Gambia and Sierra Leone, where it may be another way of saying Palava Sauce or Palaver Sauce.

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Ogiri is a seasoning derived from the fermented (?) seeds of the African locust tree or perhaps from fermented sesame seeds (?), it is used in soups and stews in Western Africa. It may be available in African import grocery stores.

Baking soda gives a salty flavor to African soups and sauces that resembles traditional vegetable salts and potash. Centuries ago many African people could only obtain salt from the bark of certain trees and the leaves of certain plants; potash was also used as a salt substitute. The use of bark and leaf salt and potash in cooking began in antiquity and was common until the 20th century when ordinary table salt became widely available throughout Africa.

Egusi is flour ground from the roasted seeds of a species of Cucurbitaceae (which includes gourds, melons, pumpkins, and squashes, many of which are native to Africa). Look for egusi (also called agusi, agushi, egushi) in African or International grocery stores. Ground roasted pumpkin seeds can be substituted, these are also called Pepitas and are available in Latin American grocery stores. Ground roasted sesame seeds might also be used.

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