Just in case you wondered which dish represents Trinidad and Tobago, I think this is one of the top 5. Many say that Pelau is the unofficial national dish of Trinidad and Tobago. With Trinidad and Tobago being such a multicultural nation, Pelau represents a bit of each culture. It has influences from Central Asia, the Middle East, Spain and Africa. It is similar to Pilaf, Paella and Pilau. Pelau is a one-pot dish, made with stewed chicken (beef, duck, goat, pork, fish, shrimp, tofu, soya chunks etc), rice, vegetables, herbs, peas and/or beans, and it’s simmered in coconut milk. Traditionally, Trinbagonian Pelau is finished off with some salted margarine (golden ray), but in today’s recipe I will use some good Irish salted butter.
Many Trinbagonians make Pelau differently, and they all prefer theirs with a different texture. I like mine wet and sappy, whereas some might like it dry. The preference is yours. When I got married, I merged both mine and my husband’s preferences, and that’s the recipe I will share with you today. The only thing that never stays constant in our recipe is the type of beans or peas we use. Sometimes we use fresh pigeon peas if it’s available, or we use the canned or frozen ones, dry pigeon peas (gungo or congo peas), red kidney beans, black-eyed peas, black beans or pinto beans. We use whatever we have in the freezer or pantry.
This one-pot dish is a popular road trip meal- because it’s so easy to pack up and take along. Because it’s so easy to transport and eat on the go, it’s great for “limes” or gatherings, especially at the rivers or beaches. It’s easy to cook yet it’s so hearty and delicious. Great for any occasion!
This recipe is a guide to help you out. Use different recipes and techniques to come up with your own version. This recipe yields 6 servings (Kevin eats about 4 times and I eat 2 times usually).
Our Version of Chicken Pelau
- 5 lbs of chicken (skin & fat removed, cut up, and washed with lemon, lime or vinegar)- I got a whole chicken at the grocery, but freshly roasted chicken is best.
- 2 1/2 cups of white rice (traditionally, parboiled rice is used)
- Salt & Pepper
- 1 cup of Caribbean green seasoning (shadon beni/bandhania, garlic, hot peppers & pimento peppers)
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon of ketchup (roucou or annato can be used)
- 1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce
- 1 inch piece of fresh ginger
- 1 cup of cubed or thinly chopped carrots
- 3 stalks of Chinese celery (leaves and stalks)
- 1/2 cup of sweet peppers, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 cups of fresh or canned coconut milk
- Hot peppers (your preference)
- 4-6 pimento or seasoning peppers
- 2-3 sprigs of thyme
- 4-6 stalks of chive (scallions, green onion)
- 3 tablespoons of brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon of oil
- 1 cup of boiled red beans + 1 can of dry pigeon peas (congo/gungo peas) *When using canned beans or peas, make sure it’s washed and drained properly. If using fresh or frozen peas, make sure it’s preboiled and rinsed thoroughly before using.
- 1 tablespoon of salted butter (golden ray salted margarine is traditionally used for that Creole flavour!)
*Pumpkin, corn, sweet potato, bhagi/spinach and more of your favourite ingredients can also be added.
- Cut chicken into smaller pieces, clean thoroughly (remove skin, guts and excess fat), and wash with lime, lemon, vinegar, or salt & flour (it helps to remove the slime and ‘freshness’)
- Prepare the other ingredients.
- Wash the rice thoroughly to remove grit and dust.
- Make Caribbean green seasoning.
- Make coconut milk.
- Chop onion, carrots, sweet peppers, celery, hot peppers, pimento, chive (scallions) and bandhania/shadon beni.
- Boil the red beans until tender but not too soft where it’s falling apart. I boiled it and then submerged it in cold water quickly. If using canned peas or beans, wash thoroughly before using.
- Season chicken with salt, onion, green seasoning, ketchup, dark soy sauce, ginger and black pepper.
- Let it marinate overnight or for a few hours, or you can cook it right away.
TIME TO COOK!
- Make the stewed chicken!
- Add some oil to a heavy-bottomed pot, and add the brown sugar.
Let the sugar melt and caramelise until it’s dark amber in colour. It will start to swell, form tiny bubbles and move toward the sides of the pot. Use a dry spoon and keep stirring the sugar to ensure that it caramelises evenly.
At this point, when the sugar is dark amber in colour, add the seasoned chicken in. Cover and let it cook for about 10 minutes to spring its natural juices. Uncover after 10 minutes, and let the first liquid reduce.
After the first liquid has reduced, add the washed rice and stir. Let it ‘chunkay’ or saute for a few minutes, to develop more flavour. Then, add the coconut milk and 5 cups of water (preferably boiling water).
Add all the chopped vegetables, herbs and salt, and stir well. If using parboiled rice, this can be added later. Check out my first pelau recipe here.
Now, lower the heat to med-low, tightly cover the pot and let it steam for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, add the peas and beans, and cover it again for 10 minutes. Make sure you time it because it can overcook quickly with white rice.
After 10 minutes, add some chopped chive/scallion, celery leaves, bandhania, cilantro and salted butter or golden ray butter (for the real creole flavour!)
The Trinbagonian Chicken Pelau is now ready to be served!
The overcooked pelau that got charred at the bottom of the pot is called the “bun bun”. Do you like “bun bun”?
I hope this recipe was helpful.
Check out the video tutorial here.
Happy Pelau cooking!
Add some love and a spoonful of Trini.