Aug. 11, 2002 – If you're tired of the same old style of peas and rice, here's a different version that comes from Guyana. It's got salt beef, fresh shrimp and coconut milk among the ingredients.
For the last two months, the Health Department's Nutrition Division has hosted student Joanne McKenzie, who has been conducting field work for her master's and registered dietitian degrees from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. It wasn't a chance for fun in the sun that attracted McKenzie to the Virgin Islands. Rather, as a Guyana native, she wanted to learn more about nutrition and health concerns in her home region.
She says she instantly felt at home in the midst of Virgin Islands cuisine, as many local dishes and ingredients are similar to those she knew in Guyana. When I asked her favorite dish, the one she'd wish for on her birthday, McKenzie answered, "peas and rice."
Peas and rice in Guyana isn't a side dish but an entrée, she explained. "There would be beans, black-eyed peas usually, and meat like salt pork, ham or pig tail. Then we would add fresh or dried shrimp. All this would simmer down with the rice. Oh, yes — we use coconut milk, not water."
The result, McKenzie said, is a hearty main dish. To make a meal, "all you need is a green salad," she added.
Peas and Rice Guyanese Style
1 cup dried black-eyed peas
1 small dry coconut
1/2 pound salt beef or pig tail
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups long grain white rice
Salt, to taste
1/2 cup fresh or frozen shrimp
Wash the peas and soak in 2 cups of water overnight. Grate the coconut. Pour 2 cups of water over the grated coconut flesh and squeeze well to extract all the flavor. Remove the grated coconut bits and discard; save the remaining milk. Cut the salt beef or pig tail into small pieces. Wash to remove the salt in the meat. Chop the onion finely. Heat the oil, and fry the onion and meat for about 15 minutes.
Add the peas, stir and allow to sauté for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Add about 3 cups of water and cook until the peas are partially tender. Add the rice, coconut milk and salt to taste. Stir, cover the pot, and allow to boil rapidly for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer gently for about 30 minutes or until rice is dry. Stir once or twice to prevent burning. Put in shrimp about 15 minutes before the rice is finished. Serve hot.
Note: Adjust the quantity of water carefully, as the target consistency is a moist rice which is neither soppy nor dry like fried rice.
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