Monday, 25 May 2009

Pacaya - Palm Flower Fritters

I'm sort of jumping the gun a bit here, but I was so excited not only to spy these at the market, but then stand witness as these flowers were bought home and cooked in such an unusual way that I've decided to post this up before anything else. The dish is known locally as 'pacaya', which are in fact the flowers of a species of palm tree.
On closer inspection, these flora are exquisite - a plume of fronds, each with beautifully textured skins. Marie, (my friend Jose's housekeeper and cook) set to work explaining to me the process of how these curiosities are cooked. First they are hulled of their green sheaths, and the flowers are blanched in boiling water for a few minutes which is said to reduce their bitterness and kill any bugs lurking amongst the stamens. Eggs whites are then beaten until stiff, to which maize flour is added along with salt and a smattering of chilli powder, which combine to create a luscious batter. The palm flowers are then draped in the batter and shallow fried until crisp and golden, and the flowers inside are just cooked, to a nice 'al dente' bite.
Marie served these with a delicious tomato salsa - made with blanched tomatoes and white onion that were pureed and seasoned to create the perfect sauce. The pacaya have a flavour all of their own; at times they tasted liked the nouvelle baby sweetcorn, a further mouthful and they tasted more like a bitter courgette or gourd. The eggy crust and Tomato sauce pulled whole dish together in a funny way, that took me back to childhood lunches of omelette with tomato ketchup, with a few greens on the side of the plate, put there because my Mother had grown them and saw fit that I therefore ate them.
My nostalgia for omelette and home grown greens aside, it was delicious and an unusually tasting pit stop on this culinary road trip.


blaqgurl said...

I love pacayas....I used to eat them in Guatemala all the time!

Speedy said...

I cant wait to harvest my first ones fresh from the garden.
Chaemedorea tepejilote is a Pretty little palm that develops 'stilt' roots from the trunk above the ground.
Mine are only small now but they grow quick.

Anonymous said...

Living in Guatemala.
Made these for the first time tonight!
Came across your blog when looking for photos of pacaya to send "back home".
Thanks for the good description.

Annette said...

I saw a jar of these at a supermarket in the Bronx and didn't really know what to do with them. Goya jars them and mentions in their serving suggestion to deep fry in an egg batter, but i didn't know what else the recipe would need. Now I know.


chepito_dedios said...

Thanks for your comments and the poetic way in which you shared this "recipe". I'm a Guatemalan far away from home, my mother brought me some pacayas last week but I forgot to ask her how to prepare them. I love the photos, they also took me back to my childhood in Guate.

Steve Wallis said...

I'm very touched that my blog post took you back in time and offered a little piece of Guate. It's a special country that I think of and miss a lot.
Kind regards and happy cooking :)