Jan 082005

Here’s my finished version of Pelau, adapted from my mother and Auntie Grace’s recipes. After looking at other recipes on the Internet, it seems that many cooks add coconut milk to their Pelau, but neither my mother nor Auntie Grace did this. I’ve given some options for additional ingredients that they did use, however.

Pelau (Stewed Chicken with Rice)

1 chicken (3 – 3.5 lbs), cut up into 8 pieces
2 onions, cut into wedges
2 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 bunches green onions
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 habanero pepper, seeds removed OR 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds included
the juice of 2 limes
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
4 Tbsp. sugar
4 Tbsp. ketchup
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
3 1/2 cups water
2 cups rice (Uncle Ben’s converted rice, not instant, and definitely NOT Jasmine!)

Optional Ingredients:
1 can pigeon peas
1 green bell pepper
1 whole Habanero pepper

1. Make the marinade by combining the green onions, 4 garlic cloves, dried thyme, habanero or jalapeno pepper and lime juice in a blender. Purée until smooth and bright green. Marinate chicken pieces in this West Indian Green Seasoning along with the soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, onion wedges and crushed garlic cloves. Let the chicken marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.
2. Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the vegetable oil and sugar and let the sugar brown, stirring and watching carefully. Don’t let the sugar burn, but let it acquire a nice brown colour. Lift the chicken from the marinade and carefully add it to the pan. This will spit a fair amount and the sugar may seize up, but it will melt again. Turn the chicken to get it evenly brown all over.
3. Remove the chicken pieces from the pan and set aside. Add the left over marinade, ketchup and oregano to the pan and stir well. Simmer for 3 – 4 minutes. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Add the rice and stir well. Return the chicken pieces to the pan and reduce the heat to keep the liquid at a very slow simmer. Cover and cook until the rice is tender.
4. Optional ingredients: The pigeon peas may be added to the mixture for the last ten minutes of cooking if desired. Also, a whole Habanero pepper may be added just before cooking the rice for added heat, but be careful not to break it open. Sometimes my mother added a chopped green pepper ten minutes before the dish is finished too.

  8 Responses to “Pelau”

  1. Hi Meredith. Heard you on CBC “Fresh Air” with Jeff Goods. Excellent. Jeanne

  2. Not sure how I feel about teryaki sauce in Pelau, and the coconut milk (or powder) is a nice touch, adds a little extra flavour.

  3. Michelle, I can see your questioning the teriyaki sauce. It seems a strange addition, but there is certainly an Asian influence in Trinidadian cuisine. Coconut milk is often found in Pelau, although much of my research indicates that coconut milk in Pelau is more Jamaican than Trinidadian. If truth be told, however, I learned to make Pelau from my mother and my mother can’t stand coconut, so I imagine that is really why you don’t find it in my recipe! I recently received an email from a San Fernando resident who uses coconut milk in her Pelau as well. I think one of the great things about Pelau is that it is one of those recipes, like Chili, that varies from cook to cook. It is really stewed chicken with rice and the variation possibilities are endless. Thanks for visiting the site. My next Pelau will have coconut milk in it!

  4. Hi

    Good that you will be using coconut milk in your next recipe. I am now getting ready to send you that cookbook promised, please forward me with your address again please. I ahve been really busy, my nephew I was taking care of died and now I have my mother who is blind with me now. So you can just imagine my days and nights. Bye
    Carol Carvalho

  5. I learned to make Pelau watching my father who is from Nevis. He doesn’t add any sugar or coconut milk. Carrots in the cooking liquid for a touch of sweetness. Bay leaf for flavor (I also add whole clove) and tumeric for added flavor and color. We also always use chicken wings instead of a whole bird.
    His is the best I have ever tasted. (I am not, for the record, the least bit biased.)

  6. Never seen the teriyaki sauce myself but I imagine it would taste good, we (my fam) use ketchup in its place :) Lots of Trinis put coconut milk in pelau tho :) Jamaicans don’t traditionally make pelau (I’m 1/2 Jamaican)..maybe they do now or maybe you thinking of the coconut milk in Jamaican rice n peas? :) Hope you enjoyed the addition 😀

  7. I had to prepare Pelau for my 8 year old’s elementary school’s International Night scheduled for this evening. For me, the carmelization of the sugar and the coconut milk are essential to the dish, but I have had variations prepared differently that were quite good. Instead of adding the whole hot pepper for added “heat” like most people do, I make up a pepper sauce that includes scotch bonnets, habaneros, lime, apple cider vinegar, fresh thyme, honey, a little soy sauce, and some tomato paste, and I add a little (emphasis on little)of that to the chicken when I place it in the hot oil (olive) and carmelized sugar.

  8. cheers for the cool post.

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