Pom is a popular Surinamese-Jewish dish. What roti is to the Hindustani, pom is to the Creole. Pom is made from the root (tubers) of the Tayer plant, which grows in the interior of Suriname. Locals call it the pongtaya or pomtayer, named after the prepared dish, Pom. You can now find ready to use (instant) pomtayer, grated and frozen, almost everywhere, making it easier to prepare. Chicken, salted meat, and spices are the other ingredients that go into the preparation of this dish. The chicken and salted meat are seasoned and prepared before they are added to the pomtayer. The Pom is then baked in an oven.
Karin Vaneker conducted a Pom study. She did it firstly for a magazine and subsequently, she did some research on the recommendation of a professor. All the Surinamese she spoke to were enthusiastic about the dish.
“I soon discovered that the dish plays an important role in the Surinamese community. I just could not find the Latin name of tayer/pomtayer. No one could tell me and the literature was only confusing. Eventually, three months into my research, and through my network of international literature and culinary experts, I eventually discovered the Latin name for the pomtayer, the Xanthosoma spp. This is a plant of the arum family. In botanical circles, it is called Aroid (s) (Latin Araceae). In culinary circles, they call that Taro – two-family plants, one which originated in Asia (Dasheen / Chinese Tajer) and the other originally from Xanthosoma (an indigenous Latin American plant)”.
Vaneker says that her research/pom project/exhibition was definitely worth it. As a result, she published a Surinamese cookbook in 2008 called “Mavis Cooks” with a number of recipes (60) and stories from and by Mavis Hofwijk.
The Surinamese-Dutch television cook and author of several cookbooks, Ramon Beuk, says that as a Surinamese you are born with Pom. “It’s something you are confronted with very soon after birth. It is there on every occasion. As a cook, it is fun to experiment with great alternative ways to present the dish. Not too long ago, I presented the dish in an 8-course menu as an Amuse (hors d’oeuvre: Red.), on a small slice of lightly toasted bread with crispy chicken and piccalilli oil. It was the same Pom. The taste remained the same, but in the presentation, it was something completely different”.
“Mavis, in my opinion, makes the best Pom,” Vaneker says. But what is the secret of a good Pom, is the question that immediately comes to mind. “It’s not just the ingredients, but also the preparation, the maker, as well as the taste/ethnicity of the person who then eats the Pom.”
“Regardless of where it comes from, to my knowledge it is the national Surinamese dish,” says Vaneker further. “In fact, it has become part of the intangible heritage of Suriname established by UNESCO. It is more special than dishes that other nations now experience and/or claim as their national dishes, such as Italian pasta and pizza. Pasta is noodles and Chinese archaeologists have excavated noodles (pasta). Pizza is a flatbread that can be found throughout the Middle East, such as the Turkish pizza called Lahmacun”.
Beuk agrees. “Of course, almost all dishes, and even the people we call Surinamese, have their origin in a country outside Suriname, but the way it is prepared is truly Surinamese. It brings back memories to every Surinamese. That’s nice “.
“Identity, in many cultures, is traditionally established in the kitchen,” explains Vaneker. “An exception to this rule is the Netherlands because their identity is formed at the dinner table through etiquette. Despite the traditional political differences between various communities, Pom has over time become an important, if not the most important national Surinamese dish. When something, in this case, a cultural dish, is very important for all Surinamese, then it will in future justify serious scientific research.”
- 2 packs Tayer (+/-2 kilo)
- 3 large drumsticks/chicken legs
- 1 bunch of leek
- 1 bunch of soup vegetables
- Black pepper
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Maggi cube(s)
- half a pack of margarine
- First prepare your chicken with nutmeg, black pepper, and Maggi cube(s)
- Then you fry the chicken in oil (dry)
- Fry the sliced tomato and onions in oil and add margarine. Then add ketchup and Maggi cube(s).
- Add again some nutmeg and black pepper in the sauce.
- Add nutmeg, black pepper, half a bottle piccalilli, vegetable soup, and pour the Tayer and mix it.
- Add two tablespoons of sugar.
- Then the sauce and taste the flavor.
- Butter a baking pan and pour a part of your Pomtayer mixture. Arrange the fried chicken and the remaining sauce and vegetables. Pour the rest of the Pomtayer mixture on top. Add some of the sauce.
- Bake in the oven until done.