Location: A large island off the east coast of Africa
Population: 24.9 million
Geography: A varied landscape of grassland, rainforest, desert, and rice paddies
Language: Malagasy, French
Signature flavours: Peanut, rice, vanilla, seafood, tomato, root vegetables and their leaves
Eric found that meals in Madagascar often consist of rice and laoka — side dishes like stews and stir fries. He also stumbled across a recipe for a traditional Malagasy street food that caught his interest, and a rice-based dessert. With culinary influences from across Africa, Europe, and Asia, Madagascar was bound to have some gems.
Kaka pizon: Literally “pigeon poop,” these are little pieces of salty fried dough, often served with dipping sauces.
Prep and cooking time: 2 hours (including an hour for the dough to rise)
Ravimbomanga Sy Patsamena: Stewed greens with dried shrimp and tomato. Traditionally, this would be made with sweet potato leaves, but since they were impossible to find, Eric prepared this dish with a combination of spinach and cassava leaves.
Prep and cooking time: 30 min
Pitipoa Foza Sy Hena-Kisoa: A stir fry of tomato, peas, lobster, crab, and pork. This and the above dish are “laoka” and were served alongside white rice.
Prep and cooking time: 30 min
Koba: A dessert of rice cream, sugar, egg, and roasted peanuts, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed.
Prep and cooking time: 5 hours
The Shopping List
Eric had so much trouble finding sweet potato leaves that he enlisted my help. I scooted around the city by bike, checking in Asian grocery stores and Caribbean markets, but nowhere we looked came through. I guess Torontonians are just not interested in making sweet potato leaves. Eric had to substitute a combination of spinach and cassava leaves (which he found at Caribbean Corner in St Lawrence Market). He found dried shrimp, lobster balls, and banana leaves at Kai Wei in Chinatown. Vegan Chinese restaurant and market King’s Cafe supplied the “pork.” Several items came from Bulk Barn and the rest came from our local grocery store.
I never thought I would be giving pigeon poop a rave review, but here I am today, proclaiming its deliciousness to the world. The kaka pizon, like pretty well any fried dough, was great. Crispy and salty, the little pieces puffed up perfectly in the oil.
They went well beside the tomato-y fish stir fry. I loved the combination of flavours of the crab, lobster, and imitation pork. The stewed greens were earthy and the shrimp in the mix was a nice surprise in each bite. I admit that I was not a fan of the koba. The slippery cake had a sweet, peanut-y, rice-y taste which was very nice — I just didn’t love the texture (not a big fan of those mochi-ish, glutinous sweets), but Eric did, and he ate up that dessert without my help.
Disclaimer: I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a passionate cook with a curiosity for flavours I’ve never tried. For great recipes from gifted local cooks, follow the links above.