what’s cookin’

Fejªo Nhemba

(also known as Matsau ati Nhaua in the local language Xitswe)

One of my goals for this year was to learn and actually make a local dish. So, while Andrea and Lexi were visiting in March, Hamida gave us a hands on lesson on how to cook Mozambique-style. From buying bean leaves in the back of the local market to prepping fresh crabs and cracking coconuts, we participated in making the meal from market to plate. 

Fejao means beans. In this case, green beans. The main ingredient to this dish is green bean leaves. Most components of this dish could probably be found or substituted with something similar in your local garden if you want to try this out. I offer substituions based on vague assumptions and not on culinary wisdom. 



  • large bag of fejao leaves, plus a few green beans
  • crabs, 8 to 10 
  • onion, chopped
  • coconut, freshly grated
  • peanuts, about 2 cups 


– Finely chop the fejao leaves and beans. Put in a small pot and cook on med. high with no added water. (Collard greens may be a good substitution since I’m not so sure the local grocer in the US will offer bean leaves).  Cook down for about 20 to 30 minutes while you do the next few steps.

– Grate coconut, then “milk” it with hot water. Squeeze handfuls of the soaked coconut, drain the liquid into another bowl for “first milk”. Then add more water to the coconut, re-squeeze and drain for “second milk”. Keep coconut milk but discard grated coconut meat.


 – “Pillao” the peanuts. This basically means pound into semi-fine flour.  (Women here all have large wooden mortars and giant 5 foot wood pestles, they use to pound different materials into smithereens. I think a smaller mortar and pestle will work elsewhere. It just might take more time and be less impressive to watch.)  Add a bit of dry rice to peanuts while pounding to absorb the peanut oil. Separate out rice after done pillao-ing (rice will be visibly unsmushed). 

– Clean the crabs and take off the legs and gill bits. Boil crabs in a bit of water until pink, then take out.

– In a big pot, boil coconut milk, add pounded peanuts, stir and bring to a boil. Add crabs and chopped onion. 

– Squeeze liquid out of bean leaves. Then stir into coconut crab mix. 

Serve with rice or chima



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3 responses to “what’s cookin’

  1. margery stewart baxter

    sounds delicious- please post images of subsequent dishes!

  2. Elizabeth

    Instead of Julie & Julia it can be Camille & Hamida. Doesn’t have the best ring to it, but I’m certain that the resulting dishes will be just as impressive.

    Good work with those crabs. I was squeamish just reading!

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