Well, even if it was good, I must say that this dish still did not take over my #1, Tunisian pkaila which is by far my favorite dish… and everyone knows my objectivity when it comes to Tunisian cuisine…
Pom is a festive meal in part because of the amount of meat that is used, but also the time needed to prepare it.
Suriname was a Dutch colony for 300 years until its independence in 1975. Throughout this period, the country, which is one of the smallest countries in South America (less than 500,000 residents), became a melting pot of ethnicities and religions, including Ameridians, Africans, Asians, Europeans but also Jews and Hindus.
The history of Jews in this country is very interesting. A large population of Portuguese Jews arrived, via Holland and Brazil in the mid-17th century, fleeing the Inquisition in their country. The Dutch government gave them a region not far from the capital Paramaribo where they lived until the late 19th century, when they migrated to the capital after many slave revolts they used to employ. Up until a century ago, the number of Jews in Suriname was disproportionate but it is now less than 200. This population has clearly left a mark on the country’s traditions, including at the culinary level. We are definitely everywhere !
Pom, this dish that has now become the national dish of the country, is indeed a dish of Jewish origin. Indeed, Surinamese Jews used to cook this dish for Passover (Pesach).
The main ingredient is the root of a tropical plant called pomtajer (in Dutch / Surinamese), new cocoyam or Xanthosoma elsewhere.
This root has many names depending on its origin. In some South American countries, it is also called malanga.
I followed a Creole version of the dish with chicken sausage, substitute for salt pork, and what is used for the original kosher version.
Everyone loved pom at home. We tasted it the next day and it was even better as it had firmed up.
- 1 whole chicken (about 2 to 3 lb)
- 1 lb of salt pork or chicken sausage
- 3 lb pomtajer (or taro root)
- 4 tomatoes , peeled and chopped
- 2 onions , chopped
- 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley , chopped
- 2 cubes chicken bouillon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- Juice of 1 orange
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 3 cloves garlic , crushed
- 1 habanero (whole)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 8 tablespoons butter , divided
Cut the chicken into pieces. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
In a pan with 3 tablespoons of butter, fry the chicken pieces and chicken sausage (sliced) for a few minutes. Set aside.
In the same pan, add 3 tablespoons of butter and sauté the onions for about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes, garlic and parsley.
Add the chicken and chicken sausages and cover with water. Add the bouillon cubes and the hot pepper.
Cook covered over medium low heat for 25-30 minutes. Drain the cooking liquid into a bowl and set it aside.
Peel and rinse the pomtajer. Grate the pomtajer by hand or with a food processor.
Mix it with some of the cooking liquid from the meat as well as the orange and lemon juices to make a sticky dough. Add sugar.
Spread half of the pomtajer mixture in a well greased baking dish. Spread chicken mixture on top and then cover with the rest of pomtajer. Most pom recipes ask for the chicken to be kept with the bones. I personally removed the bones and cut it into smaller chunks.
Pour the remaining juices over the top, 2 tablespoons of butter and bake for two hours: one hour covered at 425 F and one hour uncovered at 350 F.
Pom should be done when the top is brown and a golden brown juice comes out when poked with a knife.