Gambia Cookery : Superkanja or Okra Stew

Mandinka food – Superkanja

Superkanja, Supa Kanja or Kanjadaa is a soupy stew made with okra and it was NOT my kids favourite dish when we lived in The Gambia. I think it is because of the okra which they said gives it a sort of slimyness. Having said that, a lot of people really like it – especially when it is made with fresh okra and not too much palm oil.

Gambian village

Gambian village (Photo credit: Javier D.)

Kanja is the Mandinka word for okra and supa is said to have come from the Portuguese, which is likely to have come via nearby Guinea Bissau. Daa is the Mandinka word for mouth. That gives you an idea of the history of this dish.

I’ve found a number of recipes online for it. Here are just a few:

  • Gambian Okra Stew – ‘Superkanja’
  • Recipe: Superkanja (this is the Peace Corps one)
  • Superkanja (Recipes Wiki)

In our village in The Gambia Superkanja, which they called Kanjadaa, was made without meat and they added local spinach and onions to the okra. We had it on top of millet. Most of the recipes I’ve seen are the ‘posh’ town version rather than the village version.  The general idea is to use the same amount of  meat (beef and/or fish ) as okra cooked in palm oil (or in some recipes boiled in water) plus a lot of onions and of course the ubiquitous ‘MAGGI’ cubes (beef stock cubes) with added hot peppers and seasoning to taste.  The meat is cooked first, then the okra and onions added and all of it cooked until ‘goupy’ (or ‘thickened’ in cooking terms). Some recipes only boil the meat but I always saw it fried first in the palm oil. Once the meat and okra are cooked, water is added and a lot more boiling is done.  The Kanjadaa is said to be ready when the palm oil rises to the top. It is then served on top of rice or millet.

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