Our Recipe of the Month is Akoho Sy Voanio or Malagasy Chicken in Coconut Milk. With easy-to-obtain ingredients and very little prep required, this dish is a winner.
Akoho sy voanio is a very popular dish from Madagascar and the Comoros Islands. These islands are located off the east coast of Southeast Africa. The islands contain many distin
ct ethnic groups whose origins are Southeast Asia and Africa. Despite the islands robust ethnic diversity, the most salient cultural differences lie between those Malagasys who live on the coast and those that live in the interior. The Northern part of the island is wetter and rice is widely grown. The south is drier and more resembles Southern Africa in terms of climate and vegetation. About half the population is Christian and the other half mostly follows indigenous beliefs and practices. While Akoho sy voanio can be eaten any time of the year, it is a popular dish for Christmas feasts.
Given the Southeast Asian ethnic origins of many of the people, it is not surprising that ingredients such as rice, coconut and ginger are key ingredients. Unlike many Southeast Asian curries, Akoho sy voanio itself is not spicy, and this allows the taste of the coconut, ginger and tomato to shine through. However, a spicy condiment known as Malagasy Sakay (Sakay means "spicy") is de rigueur in Malagasy dining. Sakay is little more than hot chilies, ginger and garlic ground into a paste. Typically Sakay made with red chilies is hotter than green Sakay, but when we prepared it, we used green Thai chilies which are very hot. This method of serving a condiment on the side allows each individual diner to make the dish as spicy or mild as they desire.
- 1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts (approximately)
- 1 (1/4 pound) onion finely chopped
- 20 cherry tomatoes cut in half
- 1 inch piece of ginger, grated (1 1/2 tablespoons)
- 2 teaspoons of crushed garlic
- 14 ounces of coconut milk (1 can)
- Coconut or neutral oil
- 1 tablespoons of tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons salt (adjust to preference)
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice
- 2 cups rice, cooked
Sakay Ingredients: (all ingredients ground together in a food processor or mortar and pestle)
- 5-10 Thai bird chilies (green or red)
- 1 teaspoon of crushed garlic
- 1 tablespoon fresh garlic (peeled)
- 1 tablespoon of white vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- A sufficient amount of neutral oil to create a paste
- Cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized cubes.
- Marinate chicken in the lemon juice, salt and pepper for 1 to 4 hours.
- In a frying pan, sauté onions in 2 tablespoons coconut oil until onions are slightly soft.
- Add marinated chicken, grated ginger and crushed garlic to pan with onion. Continue sautéing until chicken is cooked through.
- Add coconut milk and tomato paste to pan and blend until the paste is integrated.
- Add halved cherry tomatoes.
- Simmer until the sauce is slightly thickened
Serve over rice and garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.
Ankafizo ny sakafonao! (Bon appetit in Malagasy)
Recipe by T. Johnston-O'Neill<
Photo by Shari K. Johnston-O'Neil