One of my fondest childhood memories is of being in the terrace of my grandparents’ house with my cousins peeling pigeon peas (guandú for us). It is very likely that at that time, the task seem tedious; but the years and the distance make us see things with different eyes. Don’t you think?
The pigeon peas came from a small plot my grandfather had just in front of his place or from some friend or relative who brought them from his land.
But there is a problem with these idealized memories and flavors, when you finally manage to put your hands on a few cans of pigeon peas with coconut milk (thanks Aunt Fina!) and cook a coconut rice with pigeon peas… then you realize that it “lacks something” and that it hasn’t reached the level of your expectations.
But I’m going to share with you this recipe anyway. Another typically Panamanian dish and one of my favorites, by the way: Coconut rice with pigeon peas. Of course it would be better made by my mom, but well… it was very good all the same.
The pigeon pea, gandule bean, tropical green pea, etc., is a popular staple in America, although its origin is probably Asian (Indian) and African. Its cultivation goes back at least 3,500 years. One theory is that it traveled from India to East Africa and West Africa. There, it was first encountered by Europeans, so it obtained the name Congo Pea. By means of the slave trade it came to the American continent, probably in the 17th century.
For making this rice, the best results are obtained with fresh coconut milk and fresh and fragrant pigeon peas. However, these canned pigeon peas with coconut milk are perfect for when you are in a bit of a hurry or if, like me, you’re away from your homeland.
- ½ cup chopped onion
- 3 tbsp. chopped red bell pepper
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 cups long-grain rice
- 2 cups hot water or vegetable broth
- 1 can pigeon peas with coconut milk of 312g
- Salt to taste
If you can find fresh pigeon peas, then you will need for 2 cups of rice:
- 1 cup pigeon peas
- 1 cup coconut milk
Sauté onion, red bell pepper and rice together for 2 minutes.
Add the can of pigeon peas with coconut milk and two cups of broth or water. Correct the seasoning.
Bring to boil, cover the pot and cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes until rice is cooked.
If you are going to cook the rice with fresh pigeon peas, cook them first with the coconut milk and water until reduced slightly, then add the rice and salt. And continue as said above.
Adapted from Nestle page.