Malawian burger

BH&T Malawian BurgerSalmon Burger with Nsima and Sautéed Greens
Now we take a quick hop over to Continental Africa to the Republic of Malawi. Malawi is a landlocked country in southern Africa bordered by Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia.  It is slightly smaller than Pennsylvania and home to approximately 50% more people (18 million vs. PA’s 12 million).  Oh, and, Lake Malawi takes up about 25% of the land – so that leaves very few wide open spaces in the country.

courtesy of CIA World Facebook

courtesy of CIA World Facebook

Malawi has had a difficult history since its independence in 1964. Underdevelopment and corruption have left the country poor and largely dependent on agriculture.  Adding to the difficulties of life in Malawi is HIV Aids.  Malawi has a HIV Aids adult prevalence rate of 9.1% (9th in the world) and it’s estimated that in 2015 26,700 people died from HIV Aids putting Malawi 11th in the world for HIV Aids related deaths (CIA World Factbook).  I read one article from the UK that put the number of HIV Aids orphans at over 1 million children.

hub and spokes II malawi


Because 80% of the population works in agriculture, the food that they eat is primarily fresh produce and grains.  Grains and starches are an important part of the Malawian diet as they give energy for the difficult labor of tending fields.  Corn is central to the life of Malawians – there is a saying in Chichewa “chimanga ndi moyo”  or “maize is life”.  Most corn is ground into flour and then made into a paste called nsima.  Nsima is a staple of the Malawian diet and is usually formed into patties and served with a “relish” of veggies, meat or quite often fish.  Sounds like a good basis to start the Malawian burger, no?

I tried making Nsima with medium grind corn meal and with masa – it was better with masa (this is a fine grind corn meal that can be found in the latin section of the grocery store).  I kept the nsima pretty simple with just a little salt and a hint of red pepper.  You could spice it up more if you want but the simplicity of the total dish is kind of refreshing, so I wouldn’t go crazy adding flavors.



Lake Malawi contains more fish species than any other lake in the world (if you can believe the internet – could be “fake news”).  So we are definitely going with a fish burger.  While tilapia is one of the most plentiful, I’ve already done tilapia so I wanted something new.  Mpasa is a native fish similar to salmon, I thought the stronger flavor of salmon would compliment the nsima, so I went with salmon.  Add in some sautéed greens and you have a simple and delicious Malawian burger.

If you are a “ingredients forward” type of person, you will love this burger. It is fresh and light with nothing to obscure the buttery salmon.  The greens give just a little tang to relieve the oiliness of the fish and the nsima is a nice neutral starch that keeps you from being starving when you finish the meal.  It definitely feels like a warm weather dish, so wait for a nice spring day and treat yourself to a taste of Malawi.

If you like this burger but want a little more kick, you should try the Guinea Bissau burger – similar ingredients, just a lot more spicy.  And, totally different flavors, but one of my favorite fish burgers is the Fijian burger – check it out!.

Malawian Burger (click for printable version)
1½ pounds salmon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Zest of ½ lemon
1 shallot minced
1 egg lightly beaten
⅓ cup masa
Sautéed Greens (recipe below)
Nsima (recipe below)

Make the Nsima first and cover to keep warm.

Salt the fish.  Melt butter and olive oil over medium high heat.  Once the butter foam has subsided, place the fish skin side down in the pan.  Cook until you can see the fish has cooked about ¼ inch up from bottom (it turns light pink).  Flip the salmon and remove the skin with a metal spatula.  Continue cooking the salmon flipping as necessary until medium rare.  Remove the fish from the pan and chop.  Add lemon zest, shallot, egg and masa.  Combine and form into patties.  Return to pan and fry until just lightly browned and cooked through.

In the meantime prepare the Sautéed Greens.

To serve, scoop Nsima on each plate, add the cooked salmon burgers and top with sautéed greens.

Sautéed Greens
2 cups mustard greens
1 cup kale
1½ Tablespoon butter
1 small onion chopped

Roughly chop the mustard greens and kale removing any large stems.  In medium sauteé pan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add onions and cook until translucent.  Add chopped greens and cover until wilted (about 2 minutes).  Sauteé for another minute or two until greens are soft but haven’t lost their color.  Remove from heat and serve warm.

4 cups water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup masa

Place first three ingredients in a medium pot and bring to a boil over high heat.  Add masa and reduce to high simmer – cook stirring constantly until thick.  Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

©Copyright 2017 Linda Monach

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