If you are lucky to have visited Africa, and specifically east Africa you must have sampled this ‘taste of Africa’. Those who love to travel and are open-minded to understanding the different cultures of the world might have already tasted this sumptuous meal. I adore the expression culture through cultural cuisines.
You can only understand this if you love food like I do. For me, it doesn’t matter which part of the world I am visiting, I am always looking for good food. Recently, my friend and I were at a grocery store to buy our weekly supplies when we came across banana that is like the ones we saw while we were visiting Uganda.
Of course, this brought back the memories of this rich culture. You should have seen my friend’s face lighting up. It reminded of 2012 when we were visiting the country and my friend really loved matoke that the Ugandan chef taught us how to prepare it. In fact, I knew one thing, we had to buy them and make the matoke in coconut milk or better known as ‘matoke la nazi’.
I must share this recipe with you because the result was breath-taking.
The origin of matoke
The word matoke is originally from the Ugandans of the Lake Victoria region. It refers to the cooked green bananas. This plantain grows in Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya among others. Apparently, Uganda is the second largest producer of banana after India and you can bet that Ugandans eat about a kg of banana per day. This makes it a staple food.
Some banana varieties
There are thousands of banana varieties in the world today. The most common ones being:
Apple bananas which grow in the rainy tropical forest of Hawaii. They are sweet and you can eat them as snacks, desserts and fruit salad.
Cavendish bananas are long and yellow in colour which is readily available in the US supermarkets and grocery stores. You can eat them when ripe although if they over-ripen you can use to make banana bread or smoothies.
Pisang bananas are Indonesian bananas that make fritters.
Red bananas are ripe when the coat is red in colour. They are eye appealing and sweet to use as a side dish.
The east African varieties although the region has many banana varieties, Uganda is the bananas republic. Matoke is the most common in the region while Mbidde is the type used for the brewing process. The gonja is another type which you can roast, kivuvu is another cooking type and sukalindizi is the dessert that you eat when it’s ripe.
Note, there are many other bananas not mentioned here. It is advisable to know which bananas to use because if you cook the type that should ripen, you will have a bad result.
How to prepare coconut matoke with meat
The original recipe is prepared by mixing the bananas and meat together to form something looking like our feature image.
However, I prefer my recipe where you cook the matoke aside then the beef strips aside so that the vegetarians can also have something appetizing without the meat. This is the recipe we are preparing here.
Note that, you can also mash the bananas. This is good for all people but I prefer it for those weaning babies and the elderly.
- 12 medium sized bananas
- 250 grams fillet steak
- Garlic. I tbsp of ginger garlic paste
- 2 cups of light coconut milk
- 1 cup of heavy coconut milk
- Chopped coriander
- Chopped green chilli(optional)
- 2 tbsp of margarine
- Onions (I love plenty of onion)
Apply some oil on your hands/finger to avoid the raw banana juice staining.
Peel each banana making sure the banana is clean and diced then place in a bowl of cold water with lemon juice or vinegar.
The purpose of the lemon is to avoid discolouring because bananas tend to discolour quickly.
On your clean cooking pan, pour two tablespoons of vegetable oil then add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds and cook for a minute.
Add onions, I love using plenty of onions let them cook until almost turning golden brown then add your garlic and cook for a minute or 2.
Add your tomato puree or chopped tomatoes and let it soften.
Once cooked, add salt and the diced bananas and stir then add the light coconut milk and cover to tenderise. For about 10 minutes, it should be tender then add the thick milk and coriander then cover for 3-4 minutes and remove from heat source.
Cooking the beef wet fry
Wash the fillet, cut the beef fillet into strips and place in clean bowl.
Marinate the beef fillet strips with pineapple juice, cumin seeds, some ginger and garlic paste, a little oil and let it rest for about an hour. The pineapple juice is a natural method of tenderizing the fillet. You can also use the pawpaw to help in the same process.
On a clean pan place the margarine or butter and light the heating stove.
Let it melt and add the onions, garlic-ginger paste then sauté until nicely cooked. Add the strips and all other cooking herbs and spices you may desire to add then cover and let it cook further.
Ensure you simmer the beef this way the beef will use its own water in cooking the stripes. Check if the meat is tender and rich in taste then remove from the heat source.
Never peel the bananas without applying cooking oil on your hands because the raw banana juice is famous for staining your hands.
Peeled bananas like to discolour. They change their colour to black very quickly. To avoid that, peel the bananas and put in a basin of water that has lemon juice.
To know whether your banana is ready, check the colour. It should take a nice yellow colour.
Use a fork to poke the banana and if it is soft you should know that it is ready
As you have seen above, you can cook matoke without the meat strips thus making it vegetarian-friendly. I usually add some green peas while frying the matoke then have a side dish of kales or spinach while other people may cook beans on the side to cater for the protein content thereby making it a vegan dish.
Some people dislike the taste of green bananas while others love them. For those who hate the taste, coconut milk will enrich its flavour. In fact, the bananas will be sweeter than when they are green. You see the coconut softens the bitter taste. In addition, the meat strips or beef stew is for taste enhancement.
Are green bananas healthy?
Of course, the dish is healthy. There are a few people who complain of developing blotted stomachs, constipation and a lot of stomach gas after taking the meal. This occurs in rare instances. If you are allergic to latex you may want to take caution when eating bananas.
Green bananas have protein that produces the same allergic condition found on those reacting when they eat protein latex. Apart from that, the bananas are healthy and rich in nutrients.
Health benefits green bananas
The green bananas are starch in nature but they produce resistant starch. This is the kind of starch that doesn’t break down the same way as the normal starch. It passes through the intestines unchanged making it an insoluble fibre. Below are some of the benefits:
Its good for weight loss because, apart from making you feel full with a little portion over a long duration of time, the resistant starch is low in carbohydrates and calories but has a lot of water. It increases metabolism while helping you burn excess fats.
Keeps your colon healthy in that, the resistant starch treats the colitis and other colon diseases. Apart from the fact that green bananas have fibre that helps in digestion, it is also beneficial to the probiotic bacteria found in your colon.
Presence of vitamins and potassium the major one is vitamin B-6 which helps on metabolism and all enzyme reactions in your body. The potassium in the bananas has vast roles some of which include; boosting metabolism, lowering your blood pressure, helping you with stress, improving brain, kidney and heart functionality.
It is an anti-diarrhoea meal multiple researches indicate that eating matoke will reduce your diarrhoea problem. To be precise, there was a study done in Bangladesh. The children with diarrhoea problem were given the green bananas to eat and within a short while the diarrhoea problem vanished.
As you can see, green banana is healthy for anyone looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle. In fact, you can use the matoke without adding meat if you wish because the bananas contain all the necessary ingredients needed by any human body. It has rich carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins.
The other thing to note is that matoke is affordable in most parts of the world. It is no wonder, the dish is quite common in some parts of Africa. It’s over a century now since people started eating bananas and while other dishes have faced out over time, bananas continue to spread in the world.