Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Fat Rice!

Tonight’s meal was extra special because I got to share it with one of my very best friends, Becca, who has actually spent a month living in Burkina. Burkina Faso is an African nation with a history of French colonization up until the 1960s and an even more recent history of governmental overthrows and issues. By recent I mean last month. Yeah, things in Burkina are not going so well right now. In 1984 Burkina Faso changed its name from Upper Volta to what it is today. The current name means "the country of honorable people". One very interesting custom that is generally practiced between family members or between members of two different ethnic groups is called "rakiire". Rakiire is basically a form of joking with the other person, but in the Burkinabe culture it is seen more as an invitation into the community than a harmful insult. Members of a single family can basically trash talk each other and it is seen as loving expression. Between members of two different ethnic groups rakiire expresses a pact of peace and nonaggression. If two tribes seem to be on the edge of a battle, rakiire can be used to defuse it. I guess the Burkinabe utilize it as a way of fighting with words instead of weapons in a way that is more comical to the other group than hurtful. Check out this interesting article if you want to learn more about rakiire: http://blog.compassion.com/burkina-faso-culture-the-tradition-of-rakiire-in-burkina-faso/  Maybe the coup leader who just seized the president of Burkina back in September and declared a change in government was persuaded to back down by rakiire. Six days later the transitional president, Michel Kafando, was restored to power.


Becca and the internet told me that Burkinabe food is based mainly off of the common staple or rice along with a sauce. I debated on making peanut butter or okra sauce with as this seemed to be the most common Burinabe meal, but I have made peanut sauce and a million times. ( also goes by the names fufu, mielie-meal, ugali, sadza, pap, and nshima in other African countries. It also closely resembles the cou-cou of the Caribbean.) Instead of making yet another repeat meal, I decided to go with what appears to be Burkina’s national dish: Riz Gras, which means “fat rice” in French. Becca said that meat was hardly ever served where she stayed except during celebrations. She was working in an orphanage so I am sure that the food was not of the highest quality, but meat definitely is a treat for most Burkinabe people, orphan or not. Riz Gras would probably be a great meal for an important day. I had to feed my guest the best. 


Riz Gras
8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into cubes
1 cup rice, rinsed
1 small onion
1 tomato
1 jalapeño, seeded
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups cabbage, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
oil, as needed
salt, to taste
thinly sliced onion, to serve

Pour enough oil to cover the bottom of a pot/wok. Add the chicken and fry until browned all over. Cover the chicken with water and bring it to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, process the onion, tomato, jalapeño, and garlic together in a food processor until it becomes a thick past. Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Add the pasta and cook, stirring frequently, for 8 minutes. Pour the broth into the saucepan along with the cabbage, carrot, rice, tomato paste, and chicken. Stir to evenly mix everything together. Cover the saucepan with a lid and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook until the rice is done and all the water has been absorbed, about 20 minutes for white rice and 45 for brown. Season to taste and serve topped with onion slices.


Becca and I LOVED the Riz Gras. (At least I know I did, and she said that she did.) We had to sub roasted red peppers for the tomatoes because of my allergy and her complete hatred towards anything tomato related. (Maybe that’s why we are such great friends. We bond over a common enemy.) The flavor was amazing, and even with the peppers instead of tomatoes, the color turned out to be just like in the pictures I found of authentic Riz Gras. It was nice to have company for one of my countries and learn about Becca’s experience in Burkina. African food never ceases to amaze me. I’d eat Riz Gras every day!

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