Gabon, independent from France since 1960 is a country on the west coast of Central Africa. It was politically dominated by one of the longest serving heads of state in the world, President Omar Bongo who led the country from 1967 until his death in 2009 when his son, Ali Bongo, took power. The economy, which was dependent on timber and manganese, until oil was discovered in the 1970s, is one of the highest in Africa.
In 2002, President Omar Bongo designated that roughly 10% of the nation’s territory was to be part of its national park system (with 13 parks in total), one of the largest proportions of nature parkland in the world. The largest of the parks is Minkébé National Park in the northeast, which the WWF have been actively working to protect since 1997. The forest elephant is particularly important to the park and is believed by the WWF to contain one of the largest populations in Africa. It has been proposed as a World Heritage Site. Another of Gabon’s parks is Loango National Park, part of the African lagoon system and considered the jewel of Africa’s west coast. After South Africa, the world’s largest concentration and variety of whales and dolphins can be found off the Loango coast.
Gabonese cuisine includes food staples of cassava, rice and yams and there are notable French influences. Recipes I came across were Gabon mustard chicken, Cucumber salad, Baked bananas, Gari (manioc porridge) and Dongo dongo (vegetable and smoke-dried fish stew). I made the popular dish of Chicken Nyembwe (chicken with palm oil), which I served with rice. I was slightly alarmed by one recipe I found which suggested ‘some people may need to take a diarrhoea tablet after consuming this dish’, but thankfully we weren’t affected! It had quite a sweet tasty flavour.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
4-6 chicken pieces (bone in)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp or 40g palm oil (available from African/Asian supermarkets)
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 large yellow pepper, chopped
1 large tomato, sliced
2 Maggi cubes or vegetable stock cubes
3/4 cup water
salt and pepper (to taste)
1 bay leaf
Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper
Fry the chicken in the vegetable oil in a casserole dish until brown all over, about 6 – 8 minutes, then set aside and cover
In the same dish fry the onion and garlic in the palm oil for a few minutes
Add peppers, tomato, salt, Maggi cubes and water
Bring to the boil and then simmer for 30 minutes
Add the chicken pieces to the dish cover and continue to simmer for 15 – 20 minutes
Serve with steamed rice