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Saturday, May 15
10:00 AM Talk: Archaeological Findings in San Diego Chinatown
10:30 AM Music: Sonia De Los Santos
12:00 PM San Diego International Shorts Fest
4:00 PM Italy's South and North: Exploring History, Gaps and Misconceptions
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Sunday, May 16
12:00 PM Tinaguis de la Raza Crafters Market
12:00 PM San Diego International Shorts Fest
4:00 PM Haydn Voyages: Music at the Maritime, Paths Converge
8:00 PM Film: Judas and the Black Messiah
Tuesday, May 18
11:00 AM Talk: Vaccine Diplomacy
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4:30 PM Japan Zoominar: Through a Transnational Lens: Japan and the World
Wednesday, May 19
11:00 AM Talk: Memory & Refuge(eness): on Southeast Asian Identities & War
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Thursday, May 20
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Friday, May 21
12:00 PM iCafé – Your Passport to Culture!
Saturday, May 22
6:00 PM Talk: Gregorio Luke on Rufino Tamayo
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Sunday, May 23
2:00 PM Music: The Romeros Quartet
Suriname Pom Casserole
Our Recipe of the Month is the national dish of Suriname: Pom. It is a savory chicken casserole baked with a crust made of the pomtajer root from which the dish derives its name. It is a very popular dish enjoyed at festive occasions in Suriname and the Netherlands. The combination of ingredients creates a unique and delightful taste.


Surinam is a small country (in both geography and population) on the Northeast coast of South America. Although there are just a little over half a million citizens in Suriname, the country is nevertheless immensely diverse, having the distinction of one of the few countries in the world where no one ethnic/cultural group comprises a majority. The largest ethnic group (27%) are descendants of South Asia. Indigenous groups (Arawak and Carib and smaller groups such as the Akurio, Trió, Warrau, and Wayana) have a long history of settlement. The diversity of the country was created by the various forms of colonial exploitation by the Dutch and English which lasted from the mid-17th century until 1975 when independence was declared. Initially the Dutch plantations were worked by enslaved people from Africa, but in 1863 slavery was abolished. Many enslaved people escaped monstrously harsh treatment by the plantation owners and formed their own tribes in the rainforest. Today, the descendants of the "Maroons" (the escaped enslaved people who established their own territories) comprise about 20 percent of the population. With the end of slavery, many of these workers abandoned the plantations entirely, although some actually took ownership of some of the plantations. The shortage of labor was met by contract and indentured laborers from South and Southeast Asia. Also in the 19th and early 20th century, laborers were also recruited from the Middle East and China.

In the 17th century, there were a considerable influx of Jewish settlers who were fleeing persecution in Europe and European-controlled territories. 2 A permanent Jewish settlement was established in 1639. 3 But the largest number of Jewish immigrants came from the Portuguese colony of Pernambuco in Brazil during the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition. 4 Somewhat later, Ashkenazi German Jews also came to Suriname. 5 These immigrants established plantations (predominantly sugarcane) of their own and, like the Dutch and English colonial enterprises, they too relied on enslaved labor. 6 By 1694 there were over 100 Jewish families in Suriname who owned more than 40 plantations worked by as many as 9,000 enslaved laborers. 7 Some authors have written that the Jewish community in Suriname became involved with Africans in Suriname to a degree not found among the other Europeans. 8 In addition to cultural interactions, many children of mixed parentage were born and significant conversion to Judaism occurred. 9 However, initially this group (considered "creole" as their traditions became blended) were considered "2nd class" in the wider Jewish community even though they largely followed Jewish precepts and adopted or were given Jewish names. 10 After decades of disfavor, they were finally granted full religious rights in 1841, shortly before all enslaved people were emancipated. 11 With the demise of plantations, poor economic prospects and internal social strife, there were a steady trickle of Surinamese Jews who emigrated elsewhere over the subsequent century. 12 In 1980, due to post-independence violence and strife, nearly all the remaining Jewish citizens of Suriname left the country. 13 But some vestiges of Jewish culture remain, including the beloved culinary delight, Pom - Suriname’s national dish.

Pom is typically served at festive occasions such as birthdays and leading to the popular expression, "Without Pom, it's not a birthday! Over time Pom adopted some South and Southeast Asian elements, such as coconut milk and sambal and today is often eaten with Indonesian style bread (roti). The dish is also quite popular in the Netherlands.

Cook's notes:
  • In Suriname this dish is prepared using the pomtajer root, known elsewhere in Latin America as malanga. It has a distinctive taste and texture; it is closest to a taro root. It is the size of a yucca root, but the two are quite different. I found malanga at the Carnival supermarket in National City. Although it differs quite a bit from pomtajer, potato can be substituted.
  • Sambal Oelek is an Indonesian chili sauce that can now be found in the Asia section of most supermarkets and in nearly all Asian grocery stores.
  • Variations: Some recipes call for using frozen then defrosted pomtajer paste, instead of grated fresh. Lime juice, lemon juice (and zest) and palm sugar are common additions. Some recipes also call for added orange juice.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size chunks
  • 1 large onion chopped (about 3 cups). You will need 2 cups for the filling and 1 cup for the topping. Alternatively, you can use one medium-large onion for the filling and a smaller sliced onion for the topping)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups tomatoes, chopped (may use diced canned tomatoes, but drain first before adding, you can drink the juice)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • Sambal Oelek to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley (or celery leaves)
Topping
  • 1 pound malanga, taro or russet potato, peeled and grated
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Preparation:

  1. In a bowl, mix the chicken with the orange juice and marinade for 10 minutes.
  2. Chop the onions and tomatoes (if using fresh).
  3. Grate the malanga, taro or potato and set aside.
  4. Pre-heat oven to 375°F.
  5. Thoroughly drain the chicken.
  6. In a large skillet, sauté the chicken pieces in butter for 6 minutes.
  7. Add 2/3rds of the onions (reserve remaining 1/3 for the topping) to the pan and continue sautéing until the onions become translucent.
  8. Add the chicken stock, coconut milk, tomatoes, tomato paste, spices, Sambal Oelek and parsley (or celery leaves) and mix thoroughly.
  9. In a large mixing bowl thoroughly combine the grated roots (malanga, taro or potato) with the remaining chopped onions, eggs, paprika, pepper and salt.
  10. Transfer the cooked chicken mixture to a casserole dish, distributing it evenly.
  11. Evenly cover the chicken with the topping (chicken should be entirely covered as this will create a crust).
  12. Bake for 45 minutes or until the topping is golden brown.

Serve with a vegetable of your choice.

Recipe and photos: T. Johnston-O'Neill
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