Tchaka is a traditional Haitian red beans and corn casserole enhanced with smoked salt-cured pork meat. | tchakayiti.com

Tchaka, a family tradition

| 13 comments

Pretend today is Saturday. Now dim the lights. Better yet, light a tèt gridap in a room featuring a straw bench. Ok perfect. Now let’s talk.

The picture painted above is the one that comes to mind when I think of this tchaka casserole. Could it be because it depicts the exact atmosphere of eating this family favorite?

If we’re talking about my childhood, it most definitely does. Tchaka night was the excuse for my grandmother to bring the family together at her house. Those nights happened exclusively on Saturday evenings, if memory serves me right. It was always dark out. My grandmother hosted us in her dimly lit living room, which had a quiet and peaceful family atmosphere.

That casserole was another one of her many specialties, and a favorite among her children and grandchildren. She only prepared it on special occasions, however.  According to her, tchaka required daylong work. She couldn’t prepare it on a whim. If we had to have it, we had to place our order in advance. And it would take her about a month to deliver.

Why such a long timeline, you may ask?

I can’t quite give you the right answer. Now that I am used to seeing my mom prepare it on random Saturdays, I don’t quite understand why my grandmother made it sound like a time-consuming dish. I can however tell you that we cook the ingredients separately before combining them. The resulting casserole must then simmer for two hours or more for the flavors to completely develop. While this may sound like a long process, it isn’t a tedious one.

Tchaka is a traditional Haitian red beans and corn casserole enhanced with smoked salt-cured pork meat. | tchakayiti.com

Tchaka is a red beans, dried corn and heavily smoked salt-cured pork meat casserole. Each of those main ingredients have their own cooking time which explains why we prep them separately. That preparation does not keep you on your toes all day long, however. This dish does not require one to stand by the stove for hours as I was convinced my grandmother did throughout my childhood. The easiness of this dish begs a few questions.

Why did my grandmother’s tchaka sound like a tedious task? Couldn’t she have prepared it more often for us?

As I have mentioned before, she salt-cured the pork herself. That might be one reason why she saved this dish for special occasions. Then again, maybe that was her secret ingredient. She was building anticipation among us. Perhaps tchaka was her secret weapon to get her children and grandchildren to come spend time with her and appreciate her more than they already did.

Tchaka is a traditional Haitian red beans and corn casserole enhanced with smoked salt-cured pork meat. | tchakayiti.com

Whatever her reasons might have been, we will always remember her famous tchaka nights.

I have yet to eat a tchaka that tastes better than hers.  Yes I know, I also said that about her bonbon sirop recipe. But it’s true, my grandmother’s cooking has to be the best I ever tasted. I will never stop repeating it. So, at the risk of being redundant, I will say it again. When it comes to tchaka, no one else’s ever seems to taste quite right.

This story was initially published on November 5th, 2014. The 2019 update includes improved recipe instructions.

Tchaka, a Haitian bean and corn casserole

The secret to a successful tchaka is in the salt-cured pork meat and the simmering. Make sure to taste it often, and adjust the seasoning as needed. 

Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 4 hours

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of dried corn
  • 2 cups of red beans
  • 2 salt cured pig feet sliced
  • Fresh thyme
  • Fresh parsley
  • 1 piment bouc
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 sour oranges juice
  • 1 juice of lime
  • Pepper to taste

Instructions

Cooking the beans and corn

  1. Soak the beans and corn in water at room temperature for about 10 hours (overnight)
  2. Drain and rinse. Discard the water.
  3. Transfer the beans and corn to a pressure cooker
  4. Add the parsley, garlic, thyme, onion, bell pepper and peppercorn
  5. Cover with water
  6. Cook halfway (about 15 minutes). Don’t fully cook them, as the cooking process will continue once all the ingredients are combined.

Cooking the pig feet

  1. Soak and rinse the salted pig feet with water
  2. Transfer them to a pressure cooker
  3. Cover with water
  4. Add some thyme sprigs, parsley, garlic, peppercorn and sour orange juice
  5. Cover and cook until fork tender (about 30 to 45 minutes)
  6. Drain. Preserve the cooking water, you will use it as broth.

Combining the ingredients

  1. Brown the drained pig feet in a thick bottom pot
  2. Slowly incorporate the preserved pig feet broth
  3. Mix in the cooked corn and beans with their cooking water
  4. Add the bay leaves and whole piment bouc
  5. Season with ground pepper to taste
  6. Simmer on low for about an hour or two until your tchaka thickens
  7. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed
  8. Finish with the juice of one lime
  9. Enjoy as is by the spoonful

Recipe Notes

The success of this recipe relies mostly on the pork meat that needs to be salt-cured for its flavor to come out. My grandmother didn't add pumpkin to her tchaka, but, some people do. If you wish to add some to yours,  puree a cooked piece and combine it with the previously cooked ingredients before simmering.

 

13 Comments:

  1. Martine Romain Megie

    Tu m’as mis l’eau a la bouche. J’en mangerais bien maintenant par ce matin gris! Et j’ose dire que ces jours-ci de plus en plus d’haitiens en consomment. Durant mon enfance, parmi mes amis, ils n’etaient pas nombreux ceux qui connaissaient ce plat et s’en delectaient comme nous.

  2. MISSMO

    J’ai beaucoup cherché cette recette l’an dernier sans succès puis j’ai eu la chance de passer quelques jours en Haïti et là je ne pouvais pas repartir sans manger un bon tchaka. C’était un pur bonheur. ça faisait longtemps que j’en n’avais pas mangé. Bien entendu, je suis revenue en Guadeloupe avec la recette en tête et je n’ai pas manqué de la refaire. Là encore… je vous laisse imaginer.

    J’ai aussi mis du giromon parce que j’aime bien la consistance que donne le giromon à ce genre de préparation.

    Par contre j’étais étonnée qu’on ait rajouté de la “liann panié” dans la recette que j’ai mangée en Haïti. Moi j’en ai pas mis.

    Ma viande de porc aussi était salée par moi-même et je confirme c’est excellent.

    Je crois que je ne vais pas tarder à en refaire

    1. annick says: Post author

      je suis aussi étonnée de l’ajout de la “liann panié” je vais chercher à m’informer. En passant, connaissez-vous le mot français pour la “liann panié”?

  3. MISSMO

    Malheureusement non mais je vais me renseigner. En fait ici la plante existe mais les guadeloupéens ne connaissent pas vraiment. D’ailleurs certains sont plutôt étonnés quand ils voient les haïtiens “dévaliser” les quelques arbres trouvés sur leur passage. Moi n’étant pas sûre que c’est bien ça quand j’en vois je ne peux pas encore me renseigner. Mais je le ferai. Je vous tiens au courant.

  4. Missmo

    Coucou Annick

    Voilà, je me suis replongée dans mes livres et j’ai trouvé quelque chose. C’est léger pour l’instant mais à partir de là on peut effectuer quelques recherches.

    Comme je l’ai dit avant c’est pas une plante très connue en Guadeloupe, par contre, il est dit dans mon livre qu’en Guyane sont consommées comme légumes-feuilles, les feuilles de “liane-panier”. Ce qui n’est pas étonnant dans la mesure où il y a une forte communauté haïtienne en Guyane. Peut être qu’elle a su imposer cette plante à la cuinine Guyanaise. Le nom scientifique c’est “Chamissoa altissima” et c’est surtout avec le nom scientifique qu’on la trouve. Un lien qui prouve que c’est bien la même plante http://issuu.com/scduag/docs/farmacopea1/116. Je vous mets d’autres infos sur facebook.

    à bientôt

    1. annick says: Post author

      Merci Missmo!!! Merci d’avoir pris le temps de faire ces recherches pour moi, le blog et ceux qui nous lisent. ça fait vraiment plaisir de vous avoir parmi mes fidèles lecteurs 🙂

  5. Roseline

    This past holiday my mother was making Tchaka for my grandmother and decided to put Joumou in it (since we had so much left over that we didn’t use to make soup). I gave her this strange look like what are you doing to MY dish, lol. She was talking to her niece and said that her grandmother puts Joumou in it (Grann on her dad’s side) so we tried it. It was good but I still like it the ol’ fashioned way (I make dumplings and put some in it when I cook it…. so good!!

    1. annick says: Post author

      Indeed some people do their Tchaka with joumou but I didn’t grow up eating it like this as my mom doesn’t like it with joumou in it. Everyone adds their own twist to it. Just found out the other day that my dad grew up eating his with coconut on the side…weird combo to me. Thanks for reading and sharing!

  6. Natasha

    Love love love this dish! Then my dad wouldn’t answer my text and send me the recipe while I was at the farmers market so I decided to google it! Needless to say…finding out it was a voodoo offering meal!!! So I’m going to say a prayer over mine before I eat it LoL LoL j/k lol

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *