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Trinidad Pelau

Trinidad Pelau



Pelau is a big favourite in Trinidad. Go to a local beach on a weekend and see all the families, kids in the water, parents set up with big pots of pelau for lunch.

Pelau can be made with chicken, pork or beef. Essentially its a one pot meal derived from Indian sources but modified to suit the Caribbean taste and ingredients. In some ways its a bit like a Biriani. The big difference here where cultures are a melting pot, is the addition of African sugar browning methods. The traditional “pea” used in the Caribbean is pigeon peas locally known as “gungo pea”, but we have made it just as tastily with black eye peas or even red beans.

Preparation of Pilau is in three stages, seasoning, cooking the chicken, and preparing the rice.

1 small chicken or 4 whole legs

teaspoon of sugar
One and a half Onions sliced

3 garlic cloves

Bunch of coriander
Tomato Ketchup
Half a WI Pepper
A small Tin of Tomatoes (4 oz) or fresh of course, in which case 2-3 medium chopped
Dark Soy Sauce (In Trinidad this is traditionally gravy browning, but we find dark soy is much nicer and more natural)
Salt and pepper

1 Tin pigeon Peas or 3 cups cooked peas of any kind

2 cups of long grain rice

1 cup coconut milk plus 4 cups water (can throw in a little stock if you have)

Sprig Thyme


Season the day before, or at least 2 hours. Skin chicken, chop into bite size, and season with salt, pepper, chopped onion, and garlic, chopped coriander and 1 tbs dark soy plus 1/4 tin tomatoes chopped.

Cook CHICKEN . Heat 1.5 tablespoons of oil in a wok or pot with 1 tbs of sugar. When sugar melts and turns dark brown (almost black) add chicken. Spoon chicken into pot reserving the liquid from the seasoning for use later. Add half a teaspoon of dark soy and stir thoroughly. Cook on a medium heat covered for 10 minutes. Check often and stir to prevent burning.

Uncover and add a small onion sliced finely and 1 tbs of tomato ketchup, cover again and allow to continue cooking for about another 10 minutes stirring regularly. Remove the chicken with a spoon to a dish, ensuring that you remove only the chicken leaving the mixture and oil, the resulting chicken will be dark brown and almost dry. Drain off all of the liquid into the reserved liquid from the marinade to form part of the rice water.

Cook Rice

Into the pot that the chicken was cooked add 2 tsp oil then half an onion sliced finely. Cook for a few seconds. Add rice and the other half tin of tomatoes and stir briskly.

When the mixture starts to stick pour 1 cup of boiling water onto the reserved seasoning and mix in then add to mixture. Also add 2 cups of boiling water, 1 cup coconut milk, and stir to mix.

Salt generously, and let mixture cook on medium heat partially covered for 10 minutes.

The long grain rice will take about 30 minutes. After about 10 minutes add cooked chicken and peas, and very carefully mix in. Cover and finish cooking, then remove from heat and allow to settle before serving. Don’t worry too much if there is still a bit of liquid when your rice is cooked as when you turn off and leave covered it will absorb over the next 20-30 minutes.

Pilau is very good served with a crisp cold mixed salad with no seasoning, avocado or sliced cucumber. It keeps well in the fridge and reheat with microwave.