Abala (Black Eyed Pea Tamales)

  • Serves

    makes 12


Sold as a street snack in Senegal, these simple banana leaf-wrapped packets are thickened with pureed black-eyed peas and served with a tart-spicy relish. This recipe first appeared in our May 2012 issue along with John O'Connor's story A Feast For All.


  • 1 cup black-eyed peas, soaked overnight
  • 2 tbsp. palm oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 12 Japanese eggplant, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 12 (8" x 6") squares banana leaves
  • 13 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 14 cup canola oil
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 1 habañero or Scotch bonnet chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
  • 12 small red onion, very thinly sliced lengthwise


Step 1

Drain peas and transfer to a food processor; pulse until slightly broken and skins break away from peas, about 4 pulses. Transfer peas to a medium bowl and cover with water; let sit until skins float to top of water. Slowly drain water from peas, allowing skins to drain with water; remove any remaining pieces of skin from peas. Place peas in a blender with 3 tbsp. water, and puree, scraping down sides of blender if necessary, until smooth; set pea puree aside.

Step 2

Heat oil in a 10" skillet over medium heat; add yellow onion and eggplant, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until softened, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir into pea puree; season filling with salt and pepper. Place 2 tbsp. filling in the middle of a banana leaf sheet with long sides parallel to you; starting with long sides, tri-fold sheet over filling, and then tri-fold shorter sides to create a square packet. Transfer packet, seam side down, to a baking sheet; repeat with remaining filling and banana leaf sheets.

Step 3

Bring 1" water to a boil in the bottom of a 6-qt. saucepan fitted with a metal steamer insert. Working in batches, place packets, seam side down, on steamer, cover with lid, and cook until filling is cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Step 4

Meanwhile, to make relish, stir together juice, oil, tomatoes, chile, red onion, and salt and pepper in a bowl. Open packets while hot and top with relish to serve.

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