Samp and Beans Recipe and History

6 Feb

*Published on Suite101 on 26/01/11

Samp and Beans is a traditional dish of the Nguni people of South Africa. Referred to as isistambu by the Zulu people and umngqusho by the Xhosa people – the biggest Nguni groups – the dish is made from slowly cooked sugar beans and samp (crushed corn kernels). It is believed that the word ‘samp’ comes from the Native American word “‘naussamp’ which the English called ‘samp,'” according to Alice Morse Earle in Customs and Fashions in Old New England (p.81). Seeing that South Africa was also once a British colony, it is likely that the word travelled to the country’s shores in due time.

Samp and Beans

In today’s South Africa, Samp and Beans is a popular staple food and is sold pre-packed and already mixed for easier preparation. Samp and Beans is also a favourite of former South African president Nelson Mandela, so fans of the icon might take an interest in sampling this recipe.

Normally served as a side dish to a main course, there are several ways to prepare and serve Samp and Beans. It can be made with chillies or curry, for those who prefer a hot kick. Or, it can be kept simple and be prepared with no spice at all. Some serve Samp and Beans with meat and gravy, or if flavourful enough, it can be enjoyed on its own. Here is a basic recipe.

Samp and Beans (Umngqush or Isistambu)

Serves 10


  • 500g samp (substitute: hominy) – rinsed and soaked overnight
  • 500g sugar beans (substitute: black eyed peas) – rinsed and soaked overnight
  • salt to taste
  • oil
  • 1 onion
  • 2-3 tsp curry powder
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed (optional)
  • 1-2 tomatoes
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • 2 potatoes
  • 50 ml butter (optional)


  1. Mix the samp and beans together and soak overnight.
  2. Drain the water after soaking and place the samp and bean mix in a large pot. Add 5-6 cups of water and allow to simmer slowly, allowing most of the water to evaporate. Cook until the samp and the beans start to get soft. If not soft enough, add more water. Season with salt to taste.
  3. While the samp and beans cook, sauté the onion in a little oil until translucent. Add the garlic and curry powder. Allow to cook for a 1 -2 minutes to get flavor out. Add the tomato, vegetable stock , ½ cup of water, and potatoes. Allow to simmer until potatoes are slightly soft.
  4. Drain the slightly soft samp and beans and add to the mixture. Allow to cook slowly until the potatoes, samp and beans are soft.
  5. Stir in the butter. Serve hot with a main course of choice.

*Published on Suite101 on 26/01/11


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