In August, 2007, Co-TED Fellow, Friedrich Erhard Randriamiakatra, a cooking teacher at the National Institute of Tourism and Hotel Business (NITH) in Madagascar (the 4th largest island in the world!) donated a book to the Africa Cookbook Project, Ma Cuisine malgache (see the October 12, 2007 posting). Since he's been unable to find an English cookbook on Malagasy cuisine with photos, he's written a brief, illustrated introduction to Malagasy cooking that I'm adding to the data base. At its heart his booklet is a description, recipes, and photos for romazava (or ro mazava), generally considered the "national dish" of Madagascar. Friedrich explains that romazava means "clear broth" (in Ma Cuisine malgache it's also translated in French to pot au feu or bouillon clair. It may be made from a base of beef, chicken, shellfish or fish (another source says it may be a vegetarian base, too). The other essential ingredient is some kind of chopped leafy green. As Mr. Randriamiakatra explains, in Madagascar there are 3 kinds of leaves commonly used, known in Malagasy as anamalao (brèdes mafana),
anantsonga, and anandrano, and he says their scientific names are cresson du para, drede mafane spilanthes sp.; brassica chinensis; and cresson (watercress).
Actually, it appears that ro literally means "juice." He explains that ro matsatso (literally "tasteless soup") refers to green leaves boiled in water without any seasonings, even salt, though people sometimes add "bitter tomatoes" and tomatoes, and is used to moisten rice. Along with his recipe for chicken romazava, he includes accompaniments of chicken skewer with ginger and peanut butter sauce, rice, and tomato salad with dressing (rougail). He has illustrations of zebu, fish, and shrimp romazava--or is it romazavas?
I'm thrilled about Friedrich's passion for his native cuisine, and his willingness to share, and hope to learn more from him in the future.
Incidentally, there's a nice 5-page article called "Malagasy Cooking" by Bakoly Domenichine Ramiaramana in Jessica Kuper's 1977 classic The Anthropologists' Cookbook, (revised in 1997). Ramiaramana goes beyond recipes to discuss culture, ingredients, meal formats, and cooking techniques, including the soup ro mazava and the sauce ro mahery.