Callaloo is synonymous with Caribbean cuisine as lu supo (loo soo-poe) is fundamental to Polynesian cuisine. Both soups are made with taro leaves and while Caribbean cookery uses other varieties of leaves, all of which are referred to as callaloo, Polynesians from the Hawaiians to the Tongans use only taro leaves. In the South Pacific, each island nation has their own taro varieties cultivated for their particular soil, popularity, exportability, and weather patterns.
In Tonga, lu (taro leaves) is cooked in soups, side dishes, and main dishes with meat or fish. Coconut milk is added to nearly all traditional island cooking, especially lu. The stems and veins of the lu leaf have needle-point raphides (calcium oxalate) which, if not well cooked, will cause your throat to constrict and your tongue to itch. This malady is cause to claim “the cook is lazy” since removing the stems and large central vein, as well as thoroughly cooking the leaf, requires a bit of time and effort.
Since taro is difficult to find in areas outside of the tropics, the best substitute is a mix of large leaf spinach and Swiss chard. Kale or collard greens can also be used successfully. Collard greens are a gift from our African ancestors just like callaloo was a gift from African slaves brought to the Caribbean in the 1700’s.
The fungi dumplings, another Caribbean dish, frequently served in the callaloo soup, was originally made of cassava (manioke) meal but has been replaced with yellow cornmeal in the last 50 years or so. Cassava meal is still used in some Polynesian cooking as corn is relatively expensive and not indigenous to Polynesia. Cassava is a subject for another post.
This soup is teaming with flavors from the chili spiked kale, okra, meat, crab and fungi dumplings. It can be made vegan simply by eliminating the meat and adding pumpkin, yam or sweet potato. If you like greens, you’ll enjoy this nutritious and filling soup.
- 4 oz salt pork, 1/2-inch cubes (or 6 strips of bacon)
- 1 onion, chopped finely
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 bunch Kale, about 1-1/2 lbs, washed, stems removed, chopped
- 6 cups chicken stock (fish stock or vegetable stock may be used)
- 4 whole cloves
- 1 fresh thyme sprig (or 1/4 tsp dried thyme)
- 1 Scotch Bonnet chili, deveined, seeded and minced (habanero chili)
- 4 oz corned beef brisket (or1 small can corned beef)
- 1/2 lb crab meat – fresh, frozen or canned, pick clean of shell debrise
- 1/2 lb okra, sliced rounds
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 1 recipe fungi dumplings (recipe below)
- 4 scallions sliced for garnish
- In a Dutch oven over medium high heat, fry salt pork to render fat. Reserve browned pork cubes for garnish. Reserve 2 Tbsp of fat.
- Saute onion and garlic in the reserved fat until translucent and fragrant.
- Add kale, chicken stock, cloves, thyme, chili and okra. Bring to a boil.
- Rinse corned beef brisket in fresh water, cut into 1-inch cubes. Add to Dutch oven,
- Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until corned beef is fork tender.
- Process soup in batches in food processor just enough to retain some chunky texture. Return soup to pot.
- Add crab and coconut milk. Heat through. Taste for salt and add salt and black pepper to taste.
- To serve, place 1 scoop of fungi in a serving bowl, ladle soup on top, garnish with sliced scallions and reserved pork cubes.
Fungi Dumplings – Ingredients:
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 okra, sliced or chopped fine
- 3 cups cornmeal
- 1 Tbsp butter
- In a 2-quart sauce pan over medium high heat, bring chicken stock, salt and okra to a roiling boil.
- Slowly whisk in cornmeal in a steady stream until thick and creamy.
- Add butter and beat with a wooden spoon until cornmeal leaves the side of the pan. Remove from heat immediately.
- Keep warm in a bain marie or double boiler.
- To serve, use an ice-cream scoop to form balls, place ball of fungi on serving dish and ladle sauce or soup on top. Garnish as desired.
Note: Fungi is also a great served with coconut chicken, coconut fish, chicken fried gravy or turkey gravy. Use in place of toast for creamed tuna, or creamed eggs. Cooled fungi maybe sliced and fried in olive oil and butter like polenta, or toasted and topped with tapenade or chili jam and cream cheese for appetizers.