Guandu are pigeon peas, and very popular in Panama. Guandu con arroz (with rice) is a traditional Christmas dish, so guandu are very expensive around that time. Many people grow them in their yards, including a number of my neighbors (the picture above is a guandu flower across the street). My neighbors say they come in green, black, and speckled. Haydeé, my Panamanian friend and cooking instructor, says the black ones have the best flavor and she usually uses the green ones in soup.
Haydeé came over yesterday, and our main objective was for her to teach me how too cook guandu con arroz. It’s not very complicated, but we have a lot of fun and I’m happy to see how she does things.
I had a bag of guandu, maybe 1/2 pound, and an equal amount of rice, or maybe a bit more. She started by putting oil in the pot, turning it up fairly hot, and then adding the guandu. She stirred it in the oil until it was sizzling and hot. Then she added the rice and continued to stir until it sizzled. Then, she added water, it seemed enough to cover and a couple more inches. This was left to cook with the cover on until the water was all absorbed, maybe 20 minutes.
Next, she added salt, some more oil, and some more water, maybe 1/2 cup. It was like a generous sprinkle to moisten everything well. This all was stirred and left to cook (covered) for 10 more minutes.
That’s it! Done and ready to eat. It made a lot but she insisted she wasn’t taking any to her house. It could wait in the fridge where it would be ready for a quick warmup in a frying pan for another meal. There seemed to be quite a bit more rice than guandu since the rice expands a lot when cooked, so I might adjust the ratios next time just because I don’t eat a lot of carbs, especially white ones. But, I certainly think it tastes good and so does my husband. Haydeé says it’s even better with pork so we’ll have to try that too sometime.
I have a feeling we will be growing guandu here next year. It is planted when the rains start again (beginning of April) and starts producing before Christmas, and is still producing now. The plants look like shrubs maybe 6-8 feet high with lovely yellow or yellow/purple flowers. Pretty things in the yard that also produce food sound like a good idea to me.