Tchaka, a family tradition

| 9 comments

Pretend today is Saturday and not Wednesday. 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 casserole, if I can call it this way for lack of a better word. Could it be because it depicts the exact atmosphere of eating tchaka?

If we’re talking about my childhood then it most definitely does. I recall tchaka being a dish my grandmother prepared on rare occasions when she brought the family together at her house on certain Saturday evenings. It was always dark out, and, if memory serves me right, we sat in her living room where the light was always dim creating a quiet and peaceful family atmosphere.

Tchaka was one of my grandmother’s specialties and a favorite among her children and grandchildren. She only prepared it on special occasions because, according to her, it couldn’t be prepared on a whim.

Made with red beans, dried corn and heavily smoked and salted pork meat, pork feet in particular, tchaka was a dish that required daylong work. Long simmering hours were a must for the flavors to completely develop. And that they did; the smoky taste of the pork meat permeated the entire dish making each spoonful a delight.

Today, I still remember her tchaka. 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, and 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.

There is one thing I must point out, however. Preparing it doesn’t need to keep you on your toes all day long. Though, it seems to require long hours, the preparation method for this dish is actually quite simple.

The beans and corn are thoroughly cooked in water, while the pork feet and meat go through the same process. They are then combined and left to simmer until the desired thickness is achieved. Sounds simple doesn’t it? So did it really require daylong work like grandma claimed? Couldn’t she have prepared it more often for us?

I know she salt-cured the pork herself so that might be one reason why she saved this dish for special occasions. Then again, maybe that was her secret ingredient: building anticipation among her children and grandchildren so that they would really enjoy her company and appreciate her even more than they already did.

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

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, since a lot of people do, I included it below as an optional ingredient. If you wish to add some to yours, puree a cooked piece and combine it with the previously cooked ingredients before simmering.

Ingredients

  • 1 part red beans
  • 1 part dried corn
  • 1 salt-cured pork feet
  • Pumpkin (optional, read above)
  • Garlic
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Piment bouc

Instructions

  1. Cook the beans and corn in unsalted water
  2. Thoroughly cook the pork feet covered in water in a separate pot
  3. When the corn and beans are ready, add the pork meat to the mix and season to taste
  4. Let simmer until the desired thickness is achieved. Serve hot as a main dish.

9 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!

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