Marie Immaculée was born in DR Congo, and arrived in Maine in 2014. She is the eldest of eight children, and the only girl in her family. She learned to cook when young, and in fact became the primary cook in her family as a young girl, as her mother was unwell quite a bit. Marie Immaculée’s recipe for Frétin – small fried fish popular in Burundi and Rwanda, as well as in Congo – was a favorite in her family, above all with her father, who loved it. She enjoys cooking and considers it a hobby. She also loves to sing. A tailor by profession, during the pandemic she is making masks for the community. She is also searching for more regular employment. Marie Immaculée is grateful to In Her Presence, which she credits with having helped her find community in Maine. She enjoys meeting new people and exchanging recipes with others from different cultures. She thinks American food tastes good, but criticizes the use of too much sugar, which she says causes people to gain weight. Congolese food, she says, is both delicious and healthy. The recipes below all use a kind of small fish found near her childhood home in the waters at the lower end of Lake Tanganyika. The fish is known as sambaza by some and ndagala by others. In Portland, Marie Immaculée buys the fish at Save-a-Lot, Moriah Store, or from a merchant based at 10 Congress Square. These three recipes are all variations on a theme.

A short 15 minute prep time means this is a good recipe for a busy day, such as a work day.

Some enjoy this dish as a starter, while others eat it with fufu and boiled plantain.
Demi kilo (or 1 lb.) fish
1 large onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 large tomatoes, diced
Chili, to taste
½ cup olive oil
Clean the fish well in several rinses of water, drain, and set aside.
Heat the oil and add the fish, stirring while the color changes.
Add salt, chili, garlic, and onion, and mix for another 3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and a tiny bit of water.
Add a little more chili to taste.

This recipe is slightly more involved, good for a quieter day. Serve with either fufu and plantain, or potato. Rice is not a good accompaniment.
Same as above, with the addition of ½ cup dried, crushed sunflower seeds, and no chili
Mix the crushed seeds with water, form into small balls (the cocorico), and set aside.
Chop onion, garlic, and tomatoes and cook in heated oil, adding salt to taste (some people omit the tomato).
Add the washed, drained fish and a little water, and stir.
Drop in the small sunflower seed balls (or you can serve the dish plain without these).
Add more water, cover, and continue to simmer another 10-15 minutes..
The cocorico should float.

Variation: This is delicious with rice.
Same as above, with the addition of amaranth leaves (a spinach-like green vegetable also called lenga lenga), eggplant, and peanut butter (optional).
Wash and dice the eggplant, onions, garlic, and tomato.
Wash and drain the fish.
Boil the amaranth leaves until cooked, then drain.
Heat ¼ cup oil and saute the onions, garlic, and tomato.
Add fish, amaranth, and eggplant.
Stir a few times, adding salt and other spices such as bay leaf, to taste.
Add water to cover ingredients, cook until ready.
Note: Some people like to peel the eggplant, but I don’t because the skin is healthy. Some people add peanut butter at the end, which should float