A Unique Cooking Technique:
As I wandered through the lush landscapes of São Tomé, I stumbled upon a culinary gem – the use of empty cocoa pods as vessels for cooking.
These pods, which once cradled the precious cocoa beans, now served as natural, single-use cookware. The open flame transformed them into cooking pots, infusing the food with a distinct citrusy aroma that only cocoa pods could impart.
Preparation is Key:
To embark on this culinary adventure, it's imperative to start with a clean slate. The pods need to be meticulously cleaned, ensuring they are free from any impurities.
Safety is paramount, and the pods should be inspected for cracks or damage before being used for cooking. Equally important is vigilance during the cooking process – monitoring the heat and progress to avoid scorching the pods or the food within.
The Recipe: Cocoa Pod Steamed Fish
1. Cleaning the Cocoa Pod:
Begin by rinsing the cocoa pod thoroughly to remove any remnants of dirt or debris, setting the stage for a pristine cooking vessel.
2. Preparing the Fish:
With the cocoa pod prepped, it's time to focus on the star of the show – the fish. Clean and gut the fish of your choice, and take care to remove any scales or internal organs.
3. Seasoning the Fish:
Infuse the fish with flavour by rubbing in your favourite seasonings – be it a medley of salt, pepper, herbs, or spices. Allow these flavours to meld for a few minutes.
4. Placing the Fish Inside the Cocoa Pod:
With the fish seasoned to perfection, gently open the cocoa pod by splitting it in half. Place the seasoned fish within the pod, ensuring it fits snugly.
5. Seal the Cocoa Pod:
Seal the cocoa pod by reuniting its two halves, using twine or natural fibers to ensure a snug closure. This step is crucial for trapping the steam and infusing the fish with the cocoa pod's unique essence.
6. Steaming the Fish:
Place the cocoa pod with the fish onto a rack, suspended over an open fire pit or within a bamboo steamer. Allow the magic to happen as the fish steams for approximately 15-20 minutes until it's tender and cooked to perfection.
7. Checking its Ready:
Gently unwrap the cocoa pod and inspect the fish. The flesh should be opaque and flake easily.
For precision, a temperature probe can be used to ensure the fish is cooked thoroughly.
8. Savouring the Creation:
As the cocoa pod unveils its steam-cooked treasure, carefully remove the fish from its cozy cocoon. Serve it alongside your favourite rice dish or complementing sauces, and relish the symphony of flavours that only cocoa pod cooking can deliver.
Venturing into the heart of São Tomé's culinary traditions, I uncovered a method that intertwined nature's bounty with the art of cooking.
Cocoa pod steamed fish, a technique both novel and enriching, invites us to embrace the unexpected and elevate our gastronomic experiences.
While not a conventional method, this journey encourages us to experiment with portion sizes, seasonings, and cooking times to craft a unique culinary symphony. With the guidance of gifted chefs like Angelo Rosso at Sundy Praia, even chocolate fondants emerge from the embrace of dried cocoa pods, a testament to the boundless creativity of São Tomé's culinary landscape.