Saturday, January 02, 2010

Surinamese Chicken with Green Beans (Roti)

The country of Suriname is located on the northern coast of South America. A former colony of the Netherlands, it obtained its independency in 1975 but not before its culture and cuisine became a part of the all-embracing Dutch culture.

The Surinamese cuisine is a very exciting mix of European, Indonesian, Indian and South American influences. Suriname is a huge country with a variety of geographical differences, each one of which influences the regional kitchens. The Dutch brought over workers to plant and harvest the plantations: they were from Indonesia and India, equally former colonies. They prepared their own traditional dishes with local ingredients which in turn became local specialties. Roti is one of those dishes.

The roti is a flat unsweetened pancake, made from flour, oil and water. Often there is no leavener like eggs, although sometimes baking powder will be used. The roti is heated on a hot plate where the baking powder will puff it up, creating pockets of air and a tender structure. In various countries around the world rotis are served one way or the other: sometimes as a breakfast item, covered with sweetened coconut milk or as dinner with a variety of side items. That's how I'm eating my roti today, with a side of potatoes, chicken and green beans. The traditional roti is filled with yellow lentils, but I'm just making an easy one today. If you want to skip this part, a Mexican tortilla for burritos or fajitas will do just fine.

I pulled two chicken legs and thighs out of the freezer (I'm making progress!!) and thawed them to make this dish, one of my favorites.

Suriname Roti

For the roti

1 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 cup of oil
1/4 of warm water
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
extra flour

Mix the flour, the baking powder, salt and pepper in a bowl, and slowly mix in the oil and water. Knead into a flexible dough, adding flour if you need to. Let the dough rest, then cut and roll into balls the size of a small egg. Heat a griddle or cast iron pan. Roll a dough ball into a large, flat pancake and place it on the hot surface: the roti will puff up in various places. Turn it over with a spatula until the other side is done. Place them on a plate and cover with a towel.

For the chicken

1 tablespoon of oil
2 chicken legs and thighs (or two medium chicken breasts cut in large chunks)
1 small onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 chicken bouillon cube
3 cups of water
2 tablespoons of curry powder*
1 pinch of sugar
3 large potatoes, peeled and quartered

In a Dutch oven, heat a little bit of oil and brown the chicken on all sides. Add the garlic and the onion, saute with the chicken for a couple of minutes. Add the curry, the water and the bouillon cube and stir in the pinch of sugar. Bring to a boil, then simmer for thirty minutes. Add the potatoes (you may have to add a little bit of water if the water doesn't cover the potatoes) and simmer until the potatoes are done. If the sauce doesn't thicken through the potatoes, bind it with a little bit of flour.

For the beans

The beans used in this dish are traditionally long beans, or yard beans. You may be able to find them in the Asian grocery stores. In this case, I used standard green beans, they make a valid substitution.

1 lb of green beans
3 cups of water
1 bouillon cube
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

Cut the green beans in one inch pieces. Bring to a boil with the water and the bouillon cube and boil until tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken, the potatoes and the beans on a plate and serve the warm roti on the side. Tear a piece of the roti and fill it with a piece of potato, chicken and green bean, wrap it up and eat it up, yummmm!!! This is not a dish to eat with fork and knive, but with your fingers....


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