If you’re used to the sweet peanut butter typically found on supermarket shelves, you’re in for a surprise if you try mambá. A pleasant, savory and spicy surprise.
This is not like the supermarket peanut butter, as the title of this post suggests. This is a savory, spicy version. How spicy depends on each person’s taste. I call it “peanut butter for grownups”.
Mambá is not the name of a snake (notice the tilde/emphasis on the second syllable). The word is almost certainly of African origin; however, I am uncertain of the origins of the dish itself. The word for peanut in Congolese is muamba, with nearly the same pronunciation as the Spanish/Dominican word. As mambá is traditionally served spread on casabe it suggests that perhaps mambá is also a very old tradition. Perhaps, since the word can be neatly traced back to African slaves of Congolese origin, the dish, or something similar, arrived with them.
Thanks to John, one of our readers, for pointing us in the right direction.
I have to say that I’m partial to our peanut butter – not only is it very flavorful, it’s probably also healthier than the industrial version. It contains very few ingredients, most of which you probably already have in your kitchen, or can get at short notice.
If you don’t have casabe, toasted pitta bread or toasted slices of rustic bread will do in a pinch.
Mambá is also popular in Haiti (same name) where it is produced commercially. In the Dominican Republic though, it’s either a home-made concoction or a cottage industry product, made from natural ingredients with no artificial preservatives.
Mambá is always a savoury spread, never sweet, and some people like it spicy – this is also my preference. Others prefer to forego the spicy peppers.
This mambá recipe is based on the ones I had as a child. As I don't know for certain what proportions were used in the ones we bought, I've tried to recreate it here. I like it rather spicy, so feel free to adjust this to your own taste.
- 1 cup unsalted toasted peanuts
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil
- 1 spicy pepper (I suggest scotch bonnet)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Pulse the peanuts in the food processor until it becomes a smooth paste.
- Add oil if the food processor is struggling, or you want a smoother paste (also my preference).
- Add half the pepper, and salt. Pulse again until it is well-mixed.
- Add more pepper if you want it spicier (don't overdo it, you need to be able to taste the peanut flavor).
- Once you have found the taste you like pour into a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid and keep refrigerated. It lasts about a week.